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23-24 August ECCPA (Early Childhood Conference of Performing Arts) Conference Melbourne. For details and registration go to www.vosa.org.
Children Who Are Different
When my brothers and I were children our paternal grandmother lived with us and she was forever exhorting us to 'be stock-sized'. To draw attention to yourself by behaving or speaking or writing in a way that was outside the norm was frowned on. Our parents, on the other hand, encouraged us to express ourselves fully, to not hold back. Children today are encouraged to be individuals more than ever.
Even so, it is human nature to want to be accepted. Being accepted tends to go with the territory of conforming to whatever your peers do or think. That's probably more likely what my grandmother was getting at. She didn't want to see us making ourselves unpopular.
Each year on the first day of school as we gaze over the sea of eager faces before us, we can't help but notice those who are 'different' for whatever reason, those who do not conform in shape, size, looks, behaviour, attitude or ability. These children stand out. They can't help it. These are children who go way beyond 'being individual'.
As the year progresses and our patience wears thin, we may wonder 'why me?' Some years the class is full of bright, eager, willing children who are easy to teach. You can do amazing extension activities with them and by the end of the year you say 'WOW!' because you've had an amazing yet humbling experience bringing these children to another level in their awareness and enjoyment of learning and of life. You know you've had a positive effect on them and feel grateful for having had them in your life.
The real test of your skills as a teacher however, lies in your ability to withstand and to extend those who are 'different.' We get so caught up in survival mode when too many of them appear in our classroom that we think we are not having an effect. This is usually not the case.
The performing arts and the visual arts are wonderful bridges to learning. I advocate incorporating these techniques into your daily classroom because for the non-conformists, this may be the only time when you do appear to get through to them. I am sometimes greeted by groans and eyes skyward by teachers when I suggest using music and relaxation techniques, art, dance and drama into the classroom because it seems too hard for the average teacher; just surviving is hard enough. Ironically, these activities de-stress you as well as the children. More importantly, these activities stimulate the brain in a way that traditional '3 Rs' learning does not, which means that rather than taking away from class time, these activities enhance learning.
Consider the children throughout history who were considered poor learners, dyslexics, even dunces. The list includes Einstein for heavens' sake! As much as you may feel like tearing your hair out and wondering how you'll survive the year when you strike a challenging group on day one, consider the amazing effect you are having on them by listening to and finding out who they are as people; what makes them tick and finding a way to connect, rather than judging them and trying to force them to conform to your values. You may just find yourself having a profound and positive influence on a highly significant person in tomorrow's world. Doesn't every child deserve as much? It is often because of 'difference' that people achieve, not despite it.
I leave you with this poem by Digby Wolfe which I found in Maggie Dent's book 'Nurturing Kids' Hearts and Souls' '
Here's to kids who are different Kids who don't always get A's Kids who have ears Twice the size of their peers And noses that go on for days.
Here's to kids who are different Kids they call crazy or dumb Kids who don't fit With the guts and the grit Who dance to a different drum.
Here's to kids who are different Kids with a mischievous streak For when they have grown As history has shown It's their difference that makes them unique.
(Maggie Dent's books are available from www.kidzfizbiz.com)
HOW TO PROPERLY PLACE NEW EMPLOYEES
This presentation gives you fantastic ideas to use in the classroom. Emily Upson, EC Educ Student, Curtin Uni.
This was a great experience that will help in the classroom. Louise Vanderplas, EC Educ Student, Curtin Uni.
|About The Author
Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA
Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her 'Kidz-Fiz-Biz' program.