WHY ARE WE NOT ABLE TO TEACH?
There is a reason why Bob Talbert said – “Good teachers are costly but bad teachers can cost more.” and that’s what we are going to explore today.
Of course, before I start to target teaching techniques – one must understand that teaching Autism is one of the most challenging tasks – here we are not just fighting one issue – it is a complex mix of problems that affect the brain so as professionals we fight sensory processes, co-ordination processes, attention deficit disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, hyper-activity or hypo-activity, seizures, regression due to psychological problems, aggression, extremely challenging behaviors, other attached mental illnesses, focus and motivational problems etc. It is a never ending list and we are suppose to manage it all and also aid cognitive development.
I know of teachers who cannot even teach neuro-typicals effectively because they are distracted with an Iphone, personal maladies, indiscipline, or plain disinterest – so imagine us teaching someone with all the above processing disorders? It’s not easy. And most definitely if you do not have the passion to teach, to inspire or to change – you cannot and must not do this job.
Having said all the above, one must think a few million times before judging or slagging of professionals and their techniques. Because, if you do that then; also have the courage to take over and function better than the professionals.
Now having said this – I am a teacher for Autism and I am writing this piece wherein I myself badger the professionals in the hope that the mistakes we are making can be looked into more deeply so that we can do what it is that we were meant to – “Teach – Change the world.”
Teaching is a noble profession and an extremely critical one too – it is sad that teachers are worth nothing these days; but then who is responsible for that? WE ARE – the day we sold this profession for a few pennies – we built a market around it. We chose to disregard process by being lazy and instead focused on blaming the in-capabilities or the behaviors or the bad upbringing of the child, thus getting more and more children sent out of schools or to the counselors. We chose to teach because one could do nothing else, we dishonored the time and space of being a teacher. We lost the magic in teaching because passion creates magic not pennies or procrastination.
WHO ARE TEACHING AUTISM IN INDIA TODAY & WHAT IS GOING WRONG?
All this above may sound poetic but the reality is that this work requires extreme dedication, a lot of organization, immense commitment, the ability to look beyond oneself and prioritize another, to be able to multi-task and think on your feet in the most pressured circumstances. Now doing these things all together is not simple and many may think that it is definitely doable, because I am able to put it in words, but the truth is that practicing this for the past 15 years, I have sacrificed more than anyone can imagine.
Also, I have spent too much time with special and not so special teachers who in the interviews and classrooms will talk about their passion but at the first instance of difficulty will drop teaching like a hot potato and run away in the name of family pressure, family responsibilities, personal dreams or because they finally realize how inadequate and incompetent they are in adapting to this working style that needs to benefit Autism. Now, this is rampant in my space because I am a sucker for details and also an extremely organized and structured professional.
It is sad but the many numbers of teachers I have seen who do not know how to use computers, basic office, cannot speak English correctly or spell or even frame a sentence even are so so many – it’s simply shocking but that is the quality of teachers I was and am forced to choose from to teach one of the most complex and distraught minds we know called AUTISM. I have never understood how an inferior processor can be compatible with an over-bearing, hyper-processing, complex and quirky piece of hardware we call AUTISM.
And not to mention that an individual making grammatical errors is still manageable according to me if they have a good attitude. But, a lack of knowledge coupled with arrogance takes the cake. These are the teachers who think they know it all and instead of learning; will fine pleasure in finding faults with everyone else’s processes (which includes the professionals training them, the space they work in, the children they work with, the disability and it’s inherent nature and the neighbor’s dog :-/) without even having the ability to understand or analyze a process forget trying to devise one.
Well the problems do not end here, the other type are those who come and get trained, learn things half way as learning does not happen in even 3 or 5 years. I stuck to a consistent job for 8 years and others for more than 3 to understand and learn. And that is something that most people these days do not do or even know that it is a requirement. I have picked my skills because I was steadfast and consistent with experts; and not because I bloated myself to be an autism queen as I could go about a month or two without getting beaten or slapped by maybe two or five children.
The simplest thing that all teachers forget is that when u are there to learn especially with an experienced person then, you need to spend a lot of time to learn as they are not about to or even able to teach you all they know in a short time. Now these half baked teachers as we know with half baked knowledge do more damage than good as they have not understood the process completely neither have they independently spent time with the individuals with autism whom they supposedly have dealt or managed. If not for the training and support these assistant teachers would be useless and instead detrimental. But that is not something that either the teacher or the parent community seems to understand.
The other type are the ones with the half baked knowledge who couple arrogance with it and make a mockery of the word education. They are the cocky ones and again create disasters that can never be amended. Then come the others who with half baked knowledge will go out and aim for only one thing and that is to make money out of other people’s miseries and I am not sure which one I would like to pick.
I have now learnt with experience to steer clear of all these types mentioned above. Infact me and my partner have also learnt to screen based on some special questions to understand hidden agendas – not proclaiming that we always get it right even now but, it is a learning process and we are very much learning. I welcome teachers who have a good attitude, are willing to learn and have some or even no semblance of knowledge. I do not find faults with them if they speak bad English or if they falter with basics of certain subjects because I am aware that our educational system is to be held responsible for that not these teachers. After all these teachers are a product of the so called prestigious education system of India. Sometimes we even pick those we think have a potential but may be coming to us with the wrong intentions in the hope that we can transform them with our genuine processes. But hell, when and how does goodness always win?
WHAT CAN WE DO? – THE PROFESSIONAL’s PERSPECTIVE – A PRELUDE.
Well, personally as a professional, I have made my mistakes and I state that proudly because it is my mistakes that have been my greatest teachers. In the world of autism where each child is anew, I am one of the very few who will stand on a platform and state that “I understand or know Autism.” That would be simply foolish – no one can completely understand even a cluster of butterflies, forget Autism.
With Autism, there are no definitives, things will change but yes there is a protocol, there are prescribed processes and there are rules that are made to make things easier for Autism. These processes are definitely not the teacher’s favorites as it does make their lives more interestingly strenuous but in my experience these very processes have always helped the Autistic. And if anyone questions it then I will simply ask them to give me something better and something that can defeat my training. I shall never go against my training and that was an oath I had taken which has kept me safe and comfortable along with Autism for so many years.
So, simplistically speaking, if you want to be a teacher for Autism, you must learn to learn, learn to be organized and learn to be committed to the processes and learn to update your knowledge from time to time because you can never be the best as Autism will always find a way to defeat your arrogant so called best self. If you think you are superior and a ‘know it all’ then the children will never connect as children do not connect with dead things – if you ask me someone who says that they know it all must be dead or an oxymoron, either ways best to ignore.
So speaking from a teacher’s perspective – Unless we do not improve the quality of teachers and the quality of their processes we cannot improve the quality of the students we create. Unless we do not have principles and values, ourselves as teachers, we cannot create individuals with values and principles. Unless we do not learn to work with passion and ignite fires in our hearts we cannot achieve that with the children either.
Soon, I will come back with clearly defined rules about how a teacher must teach and also how a teacher must be trained to work with Autism. That will give us more clarity for solutions to this problem from the expert’s point of view. Also we will discuss one of the most important and relevant cornerstones to this topic – the parent perspective.