As they grew, I learned I could not raise them according to the books and charts I devoured so voraciously. They didn't fit the mold--or, rather, the mold didn't fit them. One was precocious, speaking at five months, walking--or running--at eight months, refusing help and doing everything for himself. At eighteen months old, he purposely locked me out of the house so he could climb on the kitchen table and get at the sugar bowl. Good thing I was limber enough in those days to climb through a window! In school, his third grade teacher told me he couldn't read at all and she suspected dyslexia. "Not one word," said the teacher. I looked at his innocent face and twinkling eyes. He had read the newspaper to me the night before. At home, I asked him why he was scamming that poor lady. He said the stuff was boring and it was fun to watch her work so hard.
The stories could go on forever. Every one of my boys presented a challenge, from the one who didn't speak till the age of three when he began in complete sentences and a sophisticated vocabulary, to the one who at two argued against potty training because he said he wasn't "devellamenally weady ", right down to the youngest who, at four, offered to teach his pre-K teacher how to use the computers in her classroom. He was serious.
Finally, after too many visits to schools to sort out the chaos my sons caused, I gave up the challenges of the financial industry and home-schooled the three youngest, backing up my efforts with a Master's degree in education and getting all three safely launched in their chosen career paths. The youngest wanted to go back to the classroom for high school, and I went with him, teaching at the private school he attended, then trying public and charter schools and finally starting Woodlands Academy.
But where are Rogers and Hammerstein in all this? Well, in the musical version of "The King and I", the English lady hired to teach the royal children of Siam (now Thailand) says, "When you become a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught." Very true. Along the way, I learned that not only were my children unfitted for molds, so were everyone else's. I have had students try the same things on me that my own children did, but in a variety of ways. There might be similarities
that tempt one to classify children, but apart from very broad generalities, it simply can't be done.
Each child is unique. Their reasons for doing what they do are unique.
The educator has to see that uniqueness in order to begin to go about the process of education. One mold does not fit all children. Unlike bathrobes, one size does not fit all! Each must be custom- fit or it all hangs wrong.
You can't teach Susie and Janie the same way. Each needs her particular tweak to make it fit.
The problem with the large classroom/one size fits all philosophy is that they're trying to cut and stitch the children to fit the educational bathrobe, when it should be the other way around. Fit the robe to the child.
Teach children, not subjects. There is no other way for children to master the basics. Anything else is simply throwing an ill-fitting robe over the child, with too-short sleeves and sagging hems, and proclaiming it a success.
One Christmas, I bought my sons bathrobes--with return receipts, of course. I bought robes that were supposed to be one- size-fits-all. Naturally, not one was a good fit. They smiled and thanked me, and after trying them on, just looked at me and asked what I was thinking. "Just checking out a theory," I said, and brought out the real presents.
You see, not one fit. Not really. Oh, they all sort of covered them, more or less, but not one really fit. Short sleeve, tight shoulders, too long or short-- the truth is, one size dies NOT fit all, not even in bathrobes, and certainly not in our children's education.
One Size Doesn't Fit All
Why Woodlands' Unique Approach Works
by Woodlands Headmaster, Therese Martin
People sometimes ask me why I got into education. I have to give most of the credit to my sons, with just a bit to the Broadway composers, Rogers & Hammerstein.
I have four sons, who are as different as any four men could be. Aside from a slight tendency towards stubbornness--for which I am probably genetically to blame--they seem frustratingly diverse. One has had a career of nearly 25 years as a glazier, installing beautiful windows in custom homes and vehicles, yet he longs to open a pie shop and creates marvelous pie crusts with his glass-cut scarred hands. Another is the quintessential IT geek with a passion for politics, yet fiercely independent with no party affiliation.
One is challenged with the mixed blessing of Asperger's syndrome, with flashes of insight and brilliance but no social skills. The last--but not least, of course--is a successful engineer in the energy industry who runs marathons and bike races for charity.