Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inclusiveness in Education and basic respect for others


After a very wet Shabbat in Melbourne and some interesting shiurim at Mizrachi Shule I have to impart a few things of note. I also have to say a very big thank you to a woman who goes to our shule who on hearing that I had no hot water for tea or coffee (my urn is broken and I still have not had time to take it down and get it changed. I bought it at Pesach and it is still under warranty.) bought me a Thermos of hot water at around 8.45 am this morning. She then proceeded to go and visit a mutual friend in hospital and then on to an Aged home to visit her in laws for some time and then back to another friend for lunch. She is indeed a compassionate person. I really appreciated the hot water and the cup of tea that I made with it.
Now let's get down to brass tacks and explain inclusiveness.  What do I mean by inclusiveness in education? Inclusiveness means that you have basic respect for students or an audience before you as a lecturer or teacher - you listen to them, respect their opinions and learn from them. As teachers, we are all students and to be good teachers, we have to be good students.
Today I saw something that brought me close to tears. It happened in a moment of great clarity and it affected me in a really very deep way.
In our shule there is a guy who has a few disadvantages in life and he is not the best looking of guys nor is he particularly socially adept but he is still a very worthwhile human being. The Rabbi who was giving this shiur or lesson in our shule, asked a question of the audience and received a very astute answer from this man. He listened with great kavod or honour to what this man had to say. I was so struck with the respect that this Rav paid this man and it was sad to reflect back on how some of the students at Narrandera High School were treated by some of the teachers there, who I must say, were not a majority of the teachers even in NSW, because they simply treated the students with contempt that was quite shocking. Apparently the present principal is so much better and the school has turned around. It would want to do so.
It does not matter who a child is, what his parents do or don't do, how much money they have or don't have - that child deserves a chance of a proper education and to be respected and to respect in turn. I do not believe in special schools as I believe they start a process of alienation in society that allows the mainstream to foster selfishness and self interest as a way of life.
For me, every school is a special school and every student in a school is a special student. Education is a very serious thing. It is more than learning to read and write. It is about understanding who you are and what you want to be in life. By sending a child to a 'special school' we are saying to the child and society at large, you are 'disabled' and you cannot be 'up there with us'. You are somehow incapable of doing anything too much. We do not respect you and we believe that you cannot do anything. We believe you are somehow crippled and unable to do what most normal kids can do.
If you have low expectations of someone, they will fulfil them invariably. Shocking as it seems, children and people reflect what you believe in them. Think about it and have a shavoua Tov - a good week.

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