The future for your students starts today. Their success and their possibilities down the road are tightly linked to what you are doing for them now. In education we often become so hyper-focused on the present that we allow it alone to guide our teaching. For our students with disabilities, we often first notice their deficits and jump in offering “help”. But in many scenarios we do just the opposite because students who are provided too much help grow to depend on it, and students who grow to be dependent on others in order to navigate the world will eventually come to know much less of it.
Independence is precious. However that is typically not fully realized until the student leaves public education and seeks out living and working opportunities in the real world. And while communities must do their part to welcome and support adults with disabilities, schools must do their part to maximize student potential. From Kindergarten to High School, every step of the way learners must be provided with the proper supports to keep up with their peers. For those who are unable to do so, an alternative path must be created that still maximizes their individual potential.
What we must not do is take the student by the hand and only focus on making their educational experience as enjoyable or easy as possible. Our hearts go out to our students because of the challenges life has stacked against them, but compassion must not shake our resolve to provide a challenging program. Otherwise the end result may be less than enjoyable. Otherwise we may end up with learners who have only learned to rely on others. While Movie Mondays, Fun Fridays, and extensive free time may make the time pass much easier in the classroom, they can inadvertently poison the future of our students. While it saves the educator time to just tie the shoe for student, it saves nothing for the student.
Independence is precious, and is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give. Independence opens doors for students, and maximizes your efforts in the classroom. Seek out ways both large and small in which your learners can do more with less support. Follow along all month as we discuss how that might happen. Independence is precious. It is provided to students whose teachers have helped them earn it . Independence is given to those who have learned it.