The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Tuesday, September 28, 2010]

Presume Competence

Last night I went to special ed back to school night. One of my little first grade students was there! He showed me a shiny new iPod touch and emphasized, "Mine. Mine." I guess he got it for his birthday two weeks ago. He showed me the cool games, and I asked him if he was planning to play during the meeting, which he was. Back to school night is for parents, not kids.

We had an ASL interpreter there for a deaf parent who didn't show up, and the interpreter made the decision to stay for my little guy. It was really sweet how he watched the interpreter for a good 20-30 minutes, although the presentations were way over his head. Polite. One thing that was discussed during the meeting was a new buzzword in county, which we got from our awesome consultant for the year, Paula Kluth. The phrase du jour is "presume competence." Act is if. Act as if the child is already a reader. He will be. Act as if he already can walk. Maybe he will. Act as if she understands. Maybe she does. We've all heard stories of kids thought to have severe cognitive disabilities in addition to severe autism... Only to find out later that the child understood everything going on around her. Google Carly Fleishmann.

After the meeting, the teacher of the deaf and I greeted "our" parents, and while she spoke with little man's mother and adult brother (through a foreign language interpreter--enough people involved without me), I let my student show me how to lose at Street Fighter. And how to torture stick figures in StickWars ("Look! Blood!"). After a while, he went back to the home screen and noticed that the battery was less than half full. He said, "Oh! Eat!" and mimed plugging it in. I said (and signed--our agreement is TC with him, although I'd rather do a bi-bi thing of keeping talking and signing separate), "Power. It needs power." He got VERY annoyed with me, and said, "No, eat! Food!" I could not believe that this bright (though language delayed) child was being told that electronic devices need to eat. So I had to tell him that people eat food, machines like this use electricity, when you plug it in power goes through the wire and fills up the device's battery, etc. He said, "Power eat?" Close enough.

The reason I bring this up is because it is such a perfect example of presuming INcompetence. He could have understood power in this context--as much as any other first grader understands it. But in a culture where deaf=retarded (with all the connotations of that word), he doesn't stand a chance at being smart. Knowledge is kept from him by well-meaning people.

Treat them like they're smart and maybe they will be. That's presuming competence. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop


Post a Comment