Low expectations, children will meet them if defined by friends and classes of people in their surroundings. Our survival compass balances to the new norm of the environment. Jeff's example exudes my point. He was a heavy set, intelligent, and affable - away from his family. His family took comfort in knowing that he probably inherited his mental condition since there were two cousins with schizophrenia, two aunts with depression, a grandfather and several cousins abused alcohol. My heart ached from the lack of empathy available to this child.
Jeff saw no justice. He pounded his head against walls, smeared feces and urinated indiscriminately. He clearly knew better. He was irritable much of the time. His sister feared being alone with him and he was jealous of his younger brother who had encephalopathy. Jeff felt particularly responsible for his brother's diminished capabilities. He knew his sordid history and wanted out - out of society and out of his family. Expectations, none. He attempted suicide by wrapping his baby blanket around his neck to suffocate. He wanted to die and said so regularly...family expectation?
I used optical illusion sessions to capture the students' understanding of the importance of seeing and asking their brains and others what they were seeing. Here are two specific optical examples that were well received. The first, with my back turned to them, I would sneakily and dramatically inform them that I was drawing line segments on the white board. I would stereotype a mad professor and tell the class I was putting arrows, carets, ray symbols, greater than or less than symbols to the lines. I would pivot back from the white board with my "Vanna White" impersonation and ask them to describe what they saw. All observations were accepted. The arguments ensued and fed discussions for understanding frustration and confusion concerning personal feelings. The feelings that disturbed their minds, that the lines were all equal lengths.
The second illusion perspective that lead the students into trying other solutions, The space ship. I would say, "Make your hands into fists. Point your thumbs toward each other moving them closer and closer to each other until they almost touch. Keeping your eyes focused on your thumbs, slowly move them toward your nose while staring at the tiny, tiny space left between your thumbs. Tell me when your space ship lands." Eeks and giggles would follow. Line, color, shape and focal point fooled the mind into believing what is not there. But their anticipation lead them to broaden their views of themselves, parents, siblings, and classmates.
Listen to differences to the discovery of what we/they have in common, attainable hope for children. Let's help children find their own equilibrium, setting specific, attainable expectations. Thus, setting sail on their own course in society.
Kaye is a teacher and author of multiple works including Valerie Valentine Visits Vincent Vampire