Thursday, October 18, 2007

Problem Solving, Man-Style

Today at school, a regular education teacher found himself extremely frustrated (to put it mildly) when one of my EBD students refused to do any work in class and would only reply with a shrug when asked, “How can I help?” In fact, he told me that this student has not uttered a word to him in the six weeks we've been in school (he only gets shrugs, and he is tired of it.) The student later explained (to me) the reason for today's problem (it was a group project, and he doesn’t get along well in groups), I insisted that he go to the teacher and explain. Because he was terrified to do so (he prefers shrugging), I offered to go with him. It took some time, not to mention rehearsal and a pull-back-out-in-the-hall pep talk to finally get him to express his need to work alone to the teacher, who responded perfectly (There is a God!). So, it was a wonderful, rewarding experience for me and a real sign of growth for the student, who started the exchange with about 15 seconds of catatonia and ended it with a gentle smile and a huge sigh of relief.

I finally made it to my room, where my high-functioning cognitively disabled students were patiently waiting for me. I took the opportunity to share why I was late. Since the class is a social skills class, I thought it would be good to talk about the situation. I explained that teachers cannot solve problems if students don’t communicate. I pointed out, “It was very hard for Mr. M when he couldn’t solve the problem. Why?” [Silence.] I continued, “Because men are kind of ‘wired’ a certain way. When a man is faced with a problem, what does he really want to do?”

Of course, here I was expecting the appropriate Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus response, which is “Men facing a problem really want to fix it.” Instead, Amy cheerfully offered, “Get drunk?” Priceless.

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