In NCAI we study in a fairly inclusive and diverse community, it’s great to see it but it doesn’t really affect me in any way. My classmates treat me equally and I don’t feel left out because they see me as “normal” and fun. There are certain students that usually get on my nerves and act differently than what I’m accustomed to. We get taught that we should be nice and kind to them, that we should treat our neighbor how we want to be treated but I don’t care about the golden rule.
My friends don’t seem to care about the rule either, so why should I? They just snap at any kid who doesn’t act like we do. They have no patience for them and make faces at the other kids when they can’t see. They most definitely say snide remarks behind their back and trash talk them. I don’t join in because I don’t see it as necessary. I agree with the things they say but I don’t agree with how they say it. Why should I be patient, respectful and accommodating to the weird students if they’re so annoying? How should I respond when my friends are saying those rude comments, because even if I agree with them I know it’s not right?
Confused and annoyed teenager
Dear confused and angsty teenager,
This is a very tough spot you are in. Believe it or not it’s something very common no matter the school environment. First, I need you to keep an open mind and ears. From the get go I’m proud of you for acknowledging that the way your friends are treating this marginalized group of students isn’t right. I would advise that feeling of right and wrong to be extended a bit more. You already gave some keywords of the proper behaviors-patient, respectful and accommodating-but let’s dig deeper into what those words truly mean, truly look like and why even follow them.
In NCAI we have this amazing program called SOAAR, it stands for Students of All Abilities Recognized. Within the name of this program we have a very important take away, “all abilities”. This title alone shows how the students you’re talking about aren’t weird or the opposite of normal, they just have different abilities. Each person has wants or needs, every single one of us no matter the impairments we may naturally have. Even you, confused and annoyed teenager, have needs that may not be met sometimes. The main distinction between you and the students your friends love to make fun of is this: their needs aren’t usually recognized, accounted for, understood and accommodated for. When we, humans, don’t understand something our innate reaction is to ignore it, to alienate it and think of it as bad. We immediately turn towards prejudice and sometimes even hate, because we find this group of people an easy outlet to throw all of our insecurities and pain at.
I encourage you to read some articles about the different types of brains humans have, people aren’t a one size fits all, the different types of behavior, even the different types of learning!
I bet you don’t like writing long essays and reading a bunch of papers from homework but you do love learning through fun activities like kahoot or cool presentations. When teachers stick to the curriculum that works best for you, that’s a learning need being met.
For students with learning disabilities though, those needs and wants aren’t usually met within the curriculum that works for the rest of the class. That’s where accommodations come in. These students want to learn and have fun in school just as much as you want to. Here we also add patience and empathy into the equation. These students with learning disabilities have just as much of a right as you do to be able to learn, to be cared for and to be included. To help teachers and students alike be able to reach this destination we have to keep an open mind as to how a classroom might look like. We have to trust in the teacher, and have empathy towards the students with learning disabilities. As a community we have to remain tolerant, understanding and actively learn more about mental disorders/illnesses plus how we can be better equipped to help those around us.
To finish off I want to leave this verse with you, John 9:1-3 says “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Humans aren’t made a certain way as a punishment, but to show how big God is and how he can work through us in all sorts of ways for His good.
So remember to be kind, patient, understanding and respectful!