Guest Editorial: Proudly Different

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Valentine’s Day at our school was a day of love and friendship, of chocolate and hugs.

Dr. Barclay-Smith

But as we were setting tables for our “high tea,” donning white gloves and silly hats, teachers in Florida were crouching behind their tables, trying to shield students from yet another shooting rampage. While we were putting out punch and cookies, they were listening for strange footsteps and experiencing the unthinkable.

Today we revisit questions of “why?” and “how?” with little expectation of finding satisfying answers.  The Blame Game has begun, with finger-pointing and scapegoating of teachers, parents, students and guns.  But before the deceased students and teacher are laid to rest, we will have moved on, questions unanswered and wearily pushed aside.

So this morning I was left wondering… why them and not us?  And I would humbly like to suggest that maybe the finger-pointing is misdirected. Maybe we should be blaming the system and not its victims?

A student in today’s mainstream education system is too often a cog in a mechanistic worldview.  Impersonal and undifferentiated, they are graded and sorted like battery hens, in schools the size of small towns.  Academic pecking orders sort the “cans” from the “cannots,” and woe betide any student who is different, either in appearance or learning style.  It is a one-size fits all system that benefits the few.

Ours is a school that is proudly different. It is made up of special needs students, who are often clever, and sometimes quirky, but for whom the system has failed.  Together, though, we have created a community of caring and respect for the individual, where social and emotional issues are interwoven into daily life and not just artificially injected into the curriculum, to be taught and forgotten.  Every day we practice what we preach, and every day, in a spirit of loving acceptance, strengths are honed while weaknesses are gently premeditated.  We learn at our own pace and in our own way.  And while we may not always be the first to cross the finishing line, when we do, it will be as happy, balanced, beloved and confident young citizens.