My hands are my eyes. Being blind, I compensate to a degree with attention to sound, spatial awareness, and mental mapping, but my hands are my eyes. I touch, explore, grab, block, rub, study, brush, squeeze, pinch, stretch, stroke, lift, smooth, hold, toss, pull, discard, and kneed, all to understand what is what and what is where and how this sighted world makes any sense at all. So, take my hands from me, and I am truly, profoundly, dejectedly blind.
I thought about this recently when considering students. Each has a different set of gifts he brings to the table, and each has a different set of baggage. Amid that diversity lies unique learning strategies that are just as innate to each student as my hands are to me. Failure to support diversity in learning styles and assessment modes can become the grand thief of what could give a child his strategic answer to how to learn:
It would be like...
- Removing thinking time from the child who ponders.
- Restricting movement from the child who is kinesthetically wired.
- Forcing silence upon the child who expresses.
- Mandating social interplay from the introverted genius.
- Demanding keyboard agility from the child who loves the companionship of pencil and paper.
- Pressing the creative child into logical trenches without a chance to create.
- Dictating formulas from the non-formulaic thinkers.
Of course, we want to cultivate not just old strengths in our students but also new ones, so we can never accept a learning route that does not encourage a child to develop as many gifts as his potential offers. However, we also cannot sell out to more manageable patterns that restrict what might just have been the pathway to gold in a child's journey to learn.
It would be like...
- Making my fingers so numb that silk feels like wool.
- Removing discernment from my grip so that unperceived coins fall to the ground.
- Inhibiting judgment of distance so I can't pick up Nacho's leash or put it securely on its hook.
- Stifling my agility to fasten the tiniest clasp on the jewelry I make for charity.
- Preventing me from discerning the single-dot difference in braille that changes a "p" from an "m."
- Limiting flexibility in fingers that will no longer play the piano or type without committing frustrating errors.
- Deleting the joy of feeling a hand held in mine, because the pain is too great or there is nothing there with which to feel.
May no accident or disease ever take away the two five-fingered eyes that construct this post, and may no prescriptive education policy ever eliminate possibility from a child who just wants to learn.