Category Archives: Presuming Competence

Teaching Left-handed Kids

Some students in today’s educational system are left-handed.  These students have unique educational needs compared to their typical peers.  Common academic activities such as handwriting, drawing, and using scissors require varying levels of modification to accommodate the needs of individuals who are left-handed. Even playtime activities like baseball or golf require alternative or modified equipment to allow students who are left-handed to participate more fully.

Teachers may find it frustrating at first to deal with the unique needs of students who are left-handed.  The constant need to modify assignments can take up a significant amount of the teacher’s valuable time that could be spent in assisting other students. Also, teacher preparation programs do relatively little to familiarize new teachers with the unique needs of this small but important part of the population. These factors contribute to a lack of success for students who are left-handed in typical classrooms.

To maximize efficiency and effective use of limited resources, all students who are left-handed should be educated in a separate educational environment. Students who are left-handed should be provided with a teacher who has specialized credentials in working just with these students. The opportunity for the students to spend most of their time alongside similar individuals will build a greater sense of camaraderie and community. This will also benefit the classroom teachers who will no longer have to spend their time modifying work for students who are left-handed. And, it will benefit the typical students who have previously faced distraction from their studies due to having students who are left-handed in their classroom doing things differently, needing extra assistance, or working in separate groups from typical students.

To enhance these students’ sense of belonging to the school community, we will begin the steps necessary to put together resources to provide activities like sports teams and cheerleading squads for students who are left-handed. We are very excited to announce our first planned event will be a prom, next Spring, only for students who are left-handed!

We are committed to increasing our efforts in early identification of students who are left-handed. Early identification of students who are left-handed will help us provide necessary services that will help increase success of students who are left-handed in a specialized functional curriculum, to give them the best chance of adapting to life after school in a workplace and world dominated by right-handed individuals.

Okay, does all that stuff above seem really stupid?  Yes?  Good.  Now, take out the phrase “Students who are left-handed” and replace it with “students who have Autism” or “Downs Syndrome”or “students who are deaf” or “blind” or any other label we place on students. Why would we think that removing those people from the presence of their peers in classrooms is any more helpful, or any less discriminatory, then doing so with students who are left-handed, or green eyed, or of a particular race?

Just include.

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Meet Tim Harris

A few years ago, I was sent a link to a video that made me smile.  The video was about a man named Tim Harris.

Tim Harris is a restaurant owner.  He is a college graduate, a dynamic speaker, and an all-around likable dude.  His restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and hugs.  Lots of hugs.  Tens of thousands of hugs.

He also happens to have Downs’ Syndrome.

Since then, I have used this video in lots of presentations and workshops when I want to illustrate the impact of “presuming competence” in all students, and how limiting our expectations for our students because of a perceived disability in them short-changes them in school and in life.

I kept telling myself that someday I would love to meet Tim Harris in person.

Thanks to OCALICON 2015, I got my chance.  Tim was the Thursday keynote speaker.  I got to the conference a little later than usual that day, because I took the opportunity to drop off my son at school before driving to Columbus, but I got there in time to hear Tim’s whole presentation.  From the back row.

After his enthusiastic, heart-warming address, the crowd was asked if they had any questions for Tim.  I shot up from my seat and walked through the darkened aisleway toward a microphone.  Someone else was first, and I can’t even remember what they asked.  I was second.  I had so many questions in my head from the many times I had watched the video, so many things I would have wanted to know more about his experiences and his motivations.  But, if I could just ask one question, I knew exactly what that question had to be.

“Tim, my name is Michael.  And my question is, ‘Can I have a hug?'”

Tim Harris gave me a hug at OCALICON!Tim answered with his trademark, “Oh yeah!”

I headed straight for the stage and got my hug!  The hug even came with an “I love you, man!”  I don’t know anyone else who can say they have hugged someone who has hugged a US President, and a First Lady.  But I have!

Sometimes, it just takes twenty seconds of insane courage.  I’ll never forget the day I met one of my idols, Tim Harris.