Jim Hansen: The Beginning & A Good & Complete Education

The Beginning

Every child born into the world is a blessing.Every child born into the world is a gift.

Every child born into the world has worth and is unique and unrepeatable.
Learning begins in the womb and continues till death.(many believe beyond) . Clearly life long learning is a reality for each of us.

Life is the ultimate gift and learning is its crowning.

Learning brings growth and growth brings new life. This circle continues throughout our life.

Much of a child’s early learning seems to be random and spontaneous. It flourishes in a warm welcoming and stimulating environment. It can and should be influenced and encouraged in a non intrusive way.

Since learning brings growth ,and growth gives new life all learning is to be valued, not only learning for “earning”, not only learning that is “measured”, not only “quick” as opposed to “slow” learning. Remember, learning is not a race. True learning cannot be measured only admired, fostered and valued.

Academic learning is to be valued, but not to the exclusion of other learning. Good manners, proper hygiene, physical skills, artistic endeavours, doctoral studies, service, are learnings to be valued equally with each other and with academic learning. The inability to learn academically should not disqualify any one, able or disabled, from other learnings.

We do not each possess the same skills or abilities. Each of us is very able in some areas and less able in others. Some cannot “see” well. Others may have physical disabilities. Neither abilities nor disabilities should be value laden. They are not “good” or “bad”, they simply are. They should not define us a person. They frequently do. They should not determine our inclusion or exclusion from society. They frequently do

Every child can grow and Each Belongs.
Each child belongs not because of what he or she can or cannot do.
Each child belongs not because of what he or she knows or doesn’t know.
Each child belongs not because of what he or she has to give or gain.
Each child belongs because he or she “IS”.

A Good and Complete Education

The Foundation Each of us, over the years have been asked to express our beliefs about various aspects of life and living. It is easy to “go on” at great length about these beliefs and practices. However, it is both more difficult and more useful to express our core belief, our “philosophy”, in a single word.

Most of my life has involved the education of children and young – persons able and disabled alike. The task of choosing the motto for a new school led me to my single word philosophy of education – “GROWTH” – To live is to grow. If you are not growing you are dying. Learning brings growth and gives life.

Objective evaluation of learning or education in general is not possible. A philosophy, however, provides the basis for reviewing and improving our practices.

Given GROWTH as a valid philosophy of education, it follows that the “job” of the school is to foster growth. All growth not just the three R’s.

Psychology tells us that we learn only that which we feel a “need to know”. For much of our learning the “need’ seems automatic, for other learning we need a push. We need to be ready to learn.Paragraph

Most of us are familiar with Reading readiness and other similar programs. They have some merit. True readiness comes, not from programs, but from within the person. You are ready to learn when your basic needs are met. Let me share with you my list of basic needs of students able and disabled alike. In fact we each share the same basic needs.

The Five Basic Needs:

1. The most basic need is To BELONG.
We are social beings who live work and learn in groups. The family is the first and most important group. The school is a close second.

It is not simply “nice” to belong, it is crucial to our well being and growth. Most children feel a sense of belonging in the family. Children able and disabled alike are obliged to go to school when they reach the mandated age. They have no choice; they must go. They should, therefore, be welcomed and have full membership in the school community. Children who are different are frequently assigned alternate placements or refused admission totally. They are frequently unwelcome visitors in their own school

Denying or diminishing a child’s basic need to belong reduces his/her hope of a good and complete education.

Parents whose child has special needs must insist on their prior right to attend school with their brothers, sisters and friends in their local school. Advocacy groups are ready to help parents achieve this goal.

2. Our second basic need is To Be ACCEPTED – AFFIRMED.
Acceptance by others is easily recognized and appreciated. It could, however be seen as formal or even patronizing. Affirmation is life giving, it goes beyond acceptance. Affirmation is difficult to define but easily recognized when felt. It is a sense of personal worth reflected to us from significant others. We have each experienced persons, whose presence in our life, have caused us to glow. Imagine twenty-five pupils, each convinced of their personal worth because of an affirming teacher. Imagine teachers secure and happy in their role because of affirming pupils. Imagine families where mothers and fathers, husbands and wives and children affirm each other. Affirmation is the icing on the cake of belonging.

3. The third basic need is To Have SUCCESS.
We must not continually fail in our endeavors. It is important that children from an early age experience success. A backlog of success will insure future success and help us meet the challenge of that “rough, tough world” out there.

4. The fourth basic need is To Be CHALLENGED TO EXCELLENCE.
Every child able or disabled needs to be challenged to excellence. His/her excellence not some artificial, external measured excellence. A challenge to excellence does not mean involuntary competition. Excellence is pushing the definition of ‘personal best’. Some may wish to compete with others and accept the consequences – good or bad. Involuntary, forced completion is, however, potentially abusive.

Excellence need not be recognized by the difficulty of the task. Each person has his or her own goals. One foot added to the balance beam, or two more pushups mark excellence.

5. The fifth basic need To OFFER SERVICE.
There are many ways to offer service to others. Many offer service daily through their work or family responsibilities. We all need to serve. We are very good at serving those children and others in our communities that have special needs. However, we need to insist that they (those served) also offer service to others. Their need to serve is as great as ours, if not greater. To Belong
To be Accepted-Affirmed
To have Success
To be Challenged to Excellence
To offer Service
These are our basic needs – not optional – necessary. Their presence in our lives tells us that we are loved. To the extent that these needs are met we learn and grow.