When we enter the field of education, it is like navigating uncharted waters. Each child is unique, filled with new and interesting challenges. This is true of all education, and not only with regard to the special needs population. As we launch a ship of understanding and patience in the new year, we will encounter difficulties on our journey. And, after 35 years of itinerant work in the vision field, I can see a new horizon up ahead. It is surrounded by the seven “Cs”. Perhaps this sounds like a play on words and in fact it is. Early adventurers traveled unknown waters called the Seven Seas and much like those sea-faring men and women, many of us are aware of undefined waters looming in the not-too-distant future.
When I considered my own type of “C” faring adventure, I discovered seven “Cs” of my own that I wish to share. The first “C” has to do with change which is not only necessary from time to time, but which will hasten new beginnings and new ways of thinking. Change can shake up some people or it can become a reward to others. This depends on your willingness to accept what happens next.
In order to change we need to challenge ourselves, the second “C”. So, when we take up this challenge we allow ourselves to “think outside the box” of conventional ways of doing things. While some folks sign on to the latest trend or “educational fad” there are still a few of us around who dare to challenge this herding instinct as we step outside of the fold to raise critical concerns. But this cannot happen if we are unwilling to express ourselves with freedom of thought.
So communication becomes the third “C”. Without timely communication teachers will have a difficult time teaching their students. And without communication with each other, they will be at a loss for further insights. Often when we communicate, we might confront each other as we seek change and strive to challenge mislead ideas.
Although confrontation is difficult for most people to do, it is often necessary. So, confrontation, the fourth “C” is imperative if we are to move ahead on a sea of progress.
At the turn of the next wave is creativity and collaboration, the fifth and sixth “Cs”. Sometimes creative solutions might appear controversial at times, but as a doctor/friend once said: “Controversy is good!” This can bring about new ideas and invention. If we can collaborate properly and in good spirit, then the sky’s the limit and who knows just where this ship will sail.
Finally, it takes a lot of courage to get this ship back to harbor. Every day I see teachers and therapists who are willing to go the extra mile to help a child, to teach a new technique, and to support their colleagues. To step outside the box of conventional thinking, this takes courage, the seventh “C”.
So, when I tell you that “I am sailing the seven “Cs”, you will understand what I mean: change, challenge, communication, confrontation, creativity, collaboration and courage. If you can embrace even one of these seven “Cs” then know that you are embarking on an expedition that begins when you take the first step towards a truly human endeavor called exploration.
Now, make sure that the ship you are on has the right navigation tools. For instance, a compass will give you direction. Make sure that you know how to use it. Be certain of how to read it. Ask others to check the course with you. Be of one mind. Have clear thinking. Don’t let starfish, icebergs or the briny sea muddle up your thinking. Otherwise your ship might sink. Education, like a ship, needs to flow evenly, full steam ahead. With the right amount of “Cs”, the ship may toss and turn for a while, but it will eventually right itself.
Now there is another ship that might cross your path to the seven “Cs”. This is the “ship of fools”. The “ship of fools” attempts to chart a course with a compass that no one can read. This ship has all of the best equipment, but the ship’s captain and the men and women on board were ill-prepared for the journey. I could go on and on about the description of this foolish vessel, just know this: that without honest assessment of the ship’s needs, this ship will fail to return. One can compare this to the preparation of our children, as well as ourselves. Without proper instruction, at the right time, with honest materials and approaches, a student receives a flawed direction. This can even happen to any of us, at any age. It will take forever to reach back and find the seven “Cs” that could have helped our students and ourselves.
So how do we embrace the seven “Cs”? I believe this can happen as we honestly apply ourselves, living our lives with integrity, learning by experience and through the appropriate educational channels and having the courage to recognize the sea of change that surrounds us.