In One size does not fit all…, Paul Bogush asks,
“What are you doing for the square pegs? What do you see in their future when they walk into your class?”
I think we need to make sure that we pay close attention to these square pegs. According to Fortune 500 magazines, many of the rich, famous, or in leadership positions were the square pegs in the classroom. These are the ones that learned to survive in the real world by developing coping skills from their school days.
I was one of the kids that tried to fit in to the round hole. I believe now, looking back, that I was really a square peg but I learned to adapt so that I could fit into a round hole. No one made exceptions for me and I was so determined to succeed that I found my own way to make myself fit. I was very self motivated and determined but many of the students in my classes did not have the same characteristics.
My husband would have been that kind of student who never fit in and never knew how to make himself fit in. He was considered a lousy student and deemed a failure. Luckily he went into the navy where failure wasn’t an option and learned coping skills (out of pure survival I think) that helped him succeed. Years later he went on to college and even became a judge. I share this story with many parents so they can realize that it is important not to give up on students who don’t fit the mold. Many parents don’t ever give up but it is really hard for them to convince the professionals not to give up.
I also learned many things from my husband on how to help my students fit in. Then I began to talk to other adults who felt like square pegs when they were growing up and I asked them for tips on how to help my students. Sometimes I opened up this discussion with my students and it is interesting that many of them have some ideas of how they can fit in better but feel like no one is listening to them. Allowing the student to give input actually empowers them and makes them feel more confident.
I’d love to be able to give you a laundry list of things that worked for every student but every student is different. Sometimes I had to try different things and if they didn’t work, I had to try something different. This sometimes took a lot of patience for both of us, the student and myself. I prepared the student for this possibility before we tried something so that the student didn’t feel like a failure if something didn’t work.
To find strategies that work, I had to take the time to survey the student and try to determine what style of learning works best for that student and in which situation. Sometimes a student may have different learning styles depending on the task the student is being asked to complete.
I also need to learn as many different strategies as possible so that when I when I need to try a specific strategy, I will have an assortment of things to try. It is like a construction worker who must have the right tools on hand to complete a project. If you don’t have the right tools, the end product might not turn out the best that it could.
This whole process will also help the students when they leave my classroom. They need to learn how to advocate for themselves and look for strategies that will work for them. Instead of sitting passively waiting for someone to help them, they will be able to take an active role in their own learning.
How do you help the square pegs in your classroom? Please share.