Take a moment to imagine something. Please and thank you.
What comes to your mind? Was it difficult to shut out the world for a moment?

For me the freedom to take time to imagine something came as a shock to my senses at first. Shouldn’t I be working and not sitting still in my chair with my eyes closed? However, after some permission(self-authorized) and intentional practice, a pause for imagination has become quite productive in my professional and creative life.

Oddly enough, whenever I intentionally do this, there is a barrage of thoughts projected onto my internal IMAX screen. My mind is parsing out billions of accumulated bits of known and unknown datum. It’s incredible how, more often than not, this exercise usually causes the mind to quicken rather than slow down.

Now do it again, but this time think of your classroom or school.
Who immediately came to mind?
Why them?

Whenever I do this, it comes as no surprise that the most frequent faces are those who are viewed as hard to manage and or struggle with interpersonal interactions. Oddly enough, it is never the most “behaved” or “successful”, although each of these descriptors are relative, who come to mind. I am working hard to change this.

To be honest, I struggle at times to understand how best to serve the enigmatic students in my community. That’s not a cry for help, but it is a lens that I look through in order to provoke the deepest reflections and change in my practice. After IEP season in my school, my SERT partner and I are now working to add another 8 to 10 students to our caseloads and as the leaves have fallen, a number of new faces have come clearer into focus.

The other day, a student who is new to our school decided to elope from class and then from school. Thankfully, the outcome of this behaviour ended positively without the student leaving the property or being injured. There and then, new plans needed to be laid to support this bright and conversive student who possesses a great sense of humour.

This meant changing our view as a team to include “eyes on” check-ins, intentional movement management(let’s call it logistics), and the use of supportive strategies that will ensure safety at all times. Viewing a child with the “eyes on” lens can take a lot of energy, training, and practice. In many cases, the training comes on the job. For me, it’s like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle while on top of a speeding train. Sure there’s plenty of room and there’s a nice breeze, but do all of the pieces have to be flying around?

As I reflect on this student and their behaviours at school, I am constantly reminding myself of the lenses we must all wear in order to effectively serve the diverse social, emotional, intellectual, and behavioural needs of our students. There have been many days when every fibre of my existence fights against the way my own teachers used to handle things in order to concentrate on seeing events and actions as pieces to a much bigger puzzle.

I didn’t ask to see things that way, but I do have the capacity to leave antiquated practices in the past in order to update my prescription to see the present and future. This comes from teamwork, experience, and imaginative approaches to solving new problems and challenges as they appear.

We need to wear different lenses in order to find and place the smallest pieces not easily visible to the senses. We learn what we’re taught. So, we can also unlearn what we’re taught in order to blend, bend, and break past practices. What worked when we were kids rarely works today because that was then and this is now. That’s where taking some time to imagine and reimagine the lenses we choose through which our students are seen and served.



Updated: October 31, 2019 — 8:49 pm

The Author

Will Gourley

J/I lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

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