I want to share a story about one of my grade two students. He’s been in this program for over a year and is somewhat of a reluctant learner, especially when it comes to reading. I had a conversation with him a while back about really digging in and working with me to get him reading. He told me he didn’t need to learn how to read – this conversation went on for a while. I asked him what he wanted to do when he grows up. He told me without pause, “I’m going to be an astronaut.” Well, now I had a great argument and I gave him all kinds of reasons why he couldn’t be an astronaut unless he learns how to read, to which he replied, “I’m going to build my own rocket and I’ll be the only one who knows how to fly it because the controls will be in code.”
As a Special Education Teacher, I spend so much time looking at my students’ needs, weaknesses, assessments and “expected” potential. It has always guided my planning for them. This conversation made me think – what if I shifted focus and built on strengths instead of fixing their weaknesses? Is my focus inadvertently reinforcing these weaknesses and undesirable behaviours?
I have always been fortunate in finding guidance by putting my trust out there and opening myself up to finding “answers” and they do come in many different ways. Within a few days of this conversation and my searching, I received an e-mail from my administrators offering me the opportunity to attend a conference organized by Educational Programs in Institutions. One of the speakers, Dr. Wayne Hammond, presented exactly what I needed at that moment – my direction came – “A Strength-Based Approach to Enhancing Resiliency in Complex Children and Youth.”
My students are incredibly strong and have had experiences in their young lives that I would have difficulty coping with as an adult. They amaze and inspire me every single day and continually teach me so much about myself, teaching, people, hope, dreams, resiliency and love. They have been entrusted to me for an important reason and I want them to know every second of every day that I am here for them. I want to empower them and teach them the skills they will need to help them face adversity throughout their lives. This is a work in progress, but, I want to help you build your rocket…shoot for the stars, Rocket Man!
Rhonda Harbert is a proud mom of two fine young men and teaches K to Grade 5 at Brightbank Academy. This is her second year with PSD and her eighth year of formally doing what she loves and loving what she does.