You can't walk where I walk

Someone once told me that life is like a fast moving stream. You can put your foot into it, and even let it flow over you for a while, but you can never put your foot into the same river twice. That's quite profound, but there is something even more profound. It is this: You can't walk where I walk. In other words, you can't experience what I experience. We may be sat watching the same movie or TV programme. We may read the same book, participate in the same conversation, or sit in the same lecture. But your experience will be different to my experience. We may come away with similar messages or impressions of what we have observed or experienced, but because we are unique individuals, we are by nature different to each other, and our perceptions will also be different. That is one very important reason why in schools, standardised testing, homogenised curricula and batch processing by age need to be changed for more personalised approaches to education.

It's all down to individual perception - what psychologists call the 'representation of reality'. My reality is slightly different to yours and yours from mine. It has little to do with you and I viewing the same thing from slightly different angles, although sometimes that can be a factor in creating different perceptions. No, it's not about different angles, it's about different perspectives. A number of variables cause each of us to view life uniquely, and to represent reality from different perspectives, including our age, gender, culture, background, health, preferences, personal beliefs, in fact just about everything that wire our brains uniquely, and make us individuals. When teachers attempt to differentiate learning, they generally focus on aptitude and ability or in some cases, whether a student has a disability. Some teachers are sidetracked into considering 'learning styles' but that is a big mistake, as I have previously discussed. Carl Rogers advocated 'unconditional positive regard', a philosophy that plays out when every student is considered to be of equal worth in the classroom, regardless of their previous 'form'.

What teachers should be focused upon is the whole child, and how they perceive life and represent reality differently to everyone else in the room. Differentiation should encourage diversity not simply make provision for it. It should celebrate the fact that we are all different, and include every single voice in the classroom, giving each an equal weight. That's hard to achieve, but with some fore thought and practice, and a great deal of patience, teachers can encourage each student to participate fully and play to their individual strengths. We are not that different from each other really. We all have the same needs, to be respected, to feel we belong to the group and to have a voice. Each of us is the same, but in uniquely different ways. If you can understand that, then you will understand why you can't walk where I walk.

Photo by Steve Wheeler

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You can't walk where I walk by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Simon Ensor said…
Just wondering whether we should spend less time concentrating on
Individuals and more time on investigating the relationships which bind us?
Anonymous said…
Yay, Simon because in overpopulated classroom realities in 3rd world countries individualistic approaches are impractical.

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