As someone who has been ever watchful of inclusivity for nearly twenty years, I see this topic as a hopeful step. In the classroom, I am always mindful of those who march (or dance) to a different drummer and some of the lessons I’ve learned from it. I like to think that I am respectful and try to champion everyone’s accomplishments. One of the things I’ve learned more recently is to be quieter. Championing is sometimes better when it is sotto voce. Here are three lessons of the many I have learned over the years.
I had one individual who sat all by himself in the front row of my classroom of about fifty. He never took a note but listened as he kept his hands busy. One afternoon, just as I was dismissing the class, I realized that on that day he had been working with a Rubic’s Cube. What I didn’t catch until nearly everyone was gone was that he had perfectly aligned the cube by the end of the class period and was just sitting there waiting for me to notice. I wanted to be able to announce this to everyone! How many of us have tried and failed at this? But, I realize now, he may not have wanted this kind of attention. Lesson learned.
I had a student in one of my Honors Classes who would not look me in the eye. He would talk to me and answer questions and was paying attention. But I had not learned enough about all of this yet. Having been an advocate for all things spectrum I kept trying to catch his eye. I finally caught it one day when he was leaving the classroom. But it was not a moment of jubilation. If anything, he just wanted it not to matter. Lesson learned.
The one individual I have worked with the most is the one that has come the farthest. I’m told he weighed less than one and one-half pounds at birth. It’s amazing how babies have an innate sense of fighting for their lives. This young man worked on executive skills and impulse control, transitions and focus. He’s worked on the hope that he wouldn’t be bullied and stood up for himself when he was. He has had fabulous medical and educational help to teach others what he needed at every step. One physician stated that the college administration would never have any idea how far he’d come. They would only see what he is today. If only they knew what he’s fought just to get to this moment. Lesson learned.