A really cool old ruler
Creative Commons License photo credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather

How do you measure what is important?

Hain Ginott, the famous child psychologist and author of classic books like “Between Parents and Child” and “Between Teachers and Child” taught about the power of establishing your own rules. He reasoned the rules helped you communicate your core values and helped you measure your actions.

One of the first articles on this blog was Shouting My Commitment. Where I tell the world exactly where I stand.

Over the years, my rule has been reduced to one sentence:

“Does this action lead toward inclusion, or toward segregation?”

End of Semester, but Beginning of Life.

Here at Climbing Every Mountain, many of our readers are students in Diversity and Disability Study classes at area universities.

As the semester is ending, I hope your time here has been informative, entertaining and caused you some “cognitive dissonance.”

Cognitive Dissonance

Piaget and other educational theorists say we must have “cognitive dissonance” to challenge our existing paradigm and beliefs–or there can be no change–no evolution in our thinking, no learning.

I received emails when several people disagreed with my last post, I love Aaron| I hate Autism.” I spoke my truth, it meets my rule–so I am confident in my position. I welcome their “cognitive dissonance” and hope they will continue the discussion–so all of us will learn new things.

Evolving from Student to Teacher

One of the responsibilities of being a teacher is to raise issues, even if they are not popular. Sure, you need to be thoughtful and research your topics. Sure, you need to present logical arguments and use real world examples. Sure, you need to be aware of learning styles and cultural diversity.

At the end of the semester, a student must synthesize all the new information and create your own rules to live by. What will you “prune” away, and what ideas, facts, theories will now become part of the way you think and act?

If your measuring stick is different than others, this is tricky. Many people will disagree and see things based on their own measuring stick. That’s okay. That’s their right.

WARNING: The more important the topic–the more diversity of opinion.

And, even though it is hard to admit, they might be right. Their opinions might cause you cognitive dissonance and the spiral of learning begins all over again.

Evolving from Student to Teacher to Student

As teachers, you are going to be the advocate for not only yourself, but also the children in your care, their parents, the other teachers, the administration, the community, everyone.

You will have to keep learning, not just for survival, but because you want to keep growing and changing. You will have to find the empathy to see things from other’s point of view.

You will have to learn to take baby steps and compromise–often.

Nothing is Perfect. Nothing is totally Pure.

If you are a leader, you will face difficult decisions. You will need to be able to know what you stand for. When to walk away. When to compromise. When to ignore. When to dig in and fight.

Inch by Inch, anything’s a cinch (Schuller)

“Does this lead toward inclusion, or toward segregation?”

This mantra works for me but you will need to find your own. What defines you, your heart, your truth? What is your call to action?

Bronfenbrenner, another educational psychologist, showed us how to think in systems. I’ve written about how this applies to Aaron, my son with the label of autism in a post called The Circles of Life, but want to share some ideas from system’s theory and my point about moving from segregation to inclusion.

Individual Change

If an individual student with a disability can join general education students at a lunchroom table–this is one inch toward inclusion and away from segregation. It is a move in the direction of inclusion.

Classroom Change

If a colleague differentiates an assignment for a class, so that ALL can participate–we celebrate this step toward inclusion.

School Change

If a policy is changed, and students with disabilities can go on the fieldtrip with their general education class–this is a small step toward inclusion.

Cultural Change

“Disability World” is socially constructed. It can follow the philosophy of a medical model and try to cure the individuals, or it can follow a different philosophy and say the individual is fine, we need to cure the world.

In my opinion many people want to go back to the medical model. Recent political events demonstrate certain politicians are trying to demonize public employees–especially teachers and take away the programs which support people with disabilities to work, go to school and live in the community.

In my opinion, they want to further their agenda to only teach certain conservative curriculums, dismantle collective bargaining and a teacher’s influence in his/her own class, sabatoge the public schools, and create more private/charter schools at public expense. They no longer want to separate church and state.

Using my measure of, “Does this action move toward inclusion, or toward segregation” it clearly moves toward segregation.

As teachers in the 21st century, you are going to be caught in the cross-fire. You will need to make choices and decisions.

The administration in private/charter schools can make a rule that says, “We don’t take kids with disabilities.”

Since private/charter schools do not have to follow many of the federal laws this is their right. I believe in the separation of church and state. If a school or church wants to discriminate against people with disabilities — that is America. That is their right. I just don’t agree with it.

Personal Change

You are not going to be able to just ride this one out. YOU are going to have to make choices and decisions.

What rule do you want in your community, your life?

Is this the kind of community and/or school where you want to teach?

Where you will send your children?

Do you want to be forbidden subjects about diversity, science, history and even basic tenants of democracy and freedom?

Obviously this is a major discussion. What role do you want to play in the discussion?

Conclusion

I want to invite everyone to continue as members of our Climbing Every Mountain community, and encourage you to make rules that will guide your life.

I wish you well. I wish you courage.

Below is part of a speech Haim Ginott gave to a group of teachers on the first day of school. I find it inspiring, I hope you do too.

Dear Teacher,

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness.

Gas chambers built by learned engineers.
Children poisoned by educated physicians.
Infants killed by trained nurses.
Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.

So, I am suspicious of education.
My request is that teachers help students become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.

Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human…
(Haim Ginott, 1972, Teacher and Child)

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,

Mary

Share your Thoughts

Do you have a bottom line? Can you sum up the rules of your life in one or two sentences? Do you believe in inclusion, do you believe in segregation? It is that simple. Whatever your choice—your actions are more important than your thoughts or words. What did you think of Haim Ginott’s message to “be human”?

Be Sociable, Share!