Reasons for Teaching

This post deals mostly with my experiences from the previous years, not the last one. This last school year, which has just ended today, as my son turns 22 on Sunday, Robert has become familiar with many science, math, and language concepts at school.

Not once in during my son’s education in my town’s public schools, I had to defend his right to be taught. I sensed such resistance to the idea of teaching someone with severe disabilities coming from the people who WERE, after all, OBLIGATED to teach that I felt bewildered, angry, and hurt. I lost a lot of energy insisting on the benefits that learning might have for my son. Trying to convince teachers, specialists, and most of all, administrators that my son DESERVED to learn was a deeply humiliating experience. I had to argue for everything knowing that the resistance really came from the fact, that those teachers, specialists, administrators doubted their ability to teach Robert and thus concluded that Robert couldn’t learn. Consequently, they probably considered any efforts aimed at educating him, to be without merit. Over the years, I kept arguing for math, for reading, for writing, for science, and for social studies. I argued for community exposure, for life skills, and for vocational skills, for social skills, and for physical education.
I argued that there is a value in teaching more math than counting coins. I argued that there is a value in teaching reading comprehension using fiction, as the stories provide a key to understanding others. I argued for science and social studies, so Robert could understand better not only how the things work but also his place in the world, and his connections to other people. I argued of course for introducing him to more work, not just volunteering but earning money, so Robert could understand the connections between his efforts and his earnings.
I lost on most accounts.
By the time Robert turned 21, I was already used to school representatives dislike of even the idea of teaching Robert. Still the argument used by the previous school administrator gave me a pause.
She stated that she visited a program for adults with disabilities, which she envisioned Robert to attend in the future. She decided that Robert really didn’t need to learn anything else, to fit there.
In her opinion, there was no reason to teach Robert if he was destined to go to this program or any other just like it.

Of course I argued again. Except, I don’t remember what I said, as her words which sounded like a life sentence and hurt me deeply.
Today I would say.
1. That the more Robert understands, the better a PROGRAM he attends would become.
2. That the better the other children are taught, the better their future programs and thus their lives become.
3. That with the learning and understanding of the world comes acceptance of it, and better adjustments to the environment.
4. That with the exposure to science concepts and social studies ideas, even on the very basic levels, comes the understanding of causes and effects and of general rules, even if they are not explicitly taught.
5. That learning to be productive can results in satisfaction and can shield one against depression.
I would say that and similar things.
I wouldn’t, however, share what I noticed today as Robert practiced adding two negative numbers or two numbers of opposite signs. As he grasped the idea (I know it was only temporary understanding, and we would have to do it again and again) behind the addition of the whole numbers and successfully added -23 + -(32) and -25 + 14, his face brightened with pride, satisfaction, and deep pleasure.
I don’t think that creating such feeling in the student would be considered a good reason for teaching.
For me, however, it was the best reason for teaching.
I think that for Robert it was also the best reason for learning.

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1 Comment

  1. Jean

     /  March 1, 2014

    Well said. I admire your perseverence and can see the results of your teaching Robert.

    Reply

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