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What Six Blind Men and an Elephant Can Teach Us About Working With Children

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Have you heard the story of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant?

My good friend, SC, first introduced this to me and now it’s about to become my next tattoo. I digress.

The story is basically about six blind men who are asked to touch different parts of an elephant and figure out what it is as a whole. One man touches the trunk and thinks it’s a snake. Another man touches the ear and thinks it’s a fan, and so on and so forth (See link above for full version).

There are many versions of this story and many ways to interpret the moral. One way that I like is:

“To learn the truth, we must put all the parts together.”

Now, for the children.

It’s back-to-school time and I must admit, I miss working [directly] with my kids. Not sure about writing IEP reports and sitting in meetings, but I do miss my kids. I miss learning about who they are and what they like to do. One thing that I learned early on is that my kids are not “at-risk.” They are not “a language disorder.” They are not “a behavior problem.” They are not “a learning disability.” They are so much more than their labels.

In order to understand this about our kids though, we have to see all parts of them. We can’t just look at how they perform in the classroom, the place that is probably most difficult for some of them, and think that we know this kid.

  • Watch him play an instrument.

  • Watch her tell jokes during lunchtime.

  • Watch him take care of his little brother when it’s time to walk home or get on the bus.

  • Watch him dance.

  • Watch her play basketball.

  • Watch him draw.

If we just looked at one part of this kid, and to be honest, it’s usually the “problem” part, we’d never understand the incredible strengths they have lurking inside of them.

I always tried to look at my kids through their strengths. I know how much they appreciated it, because they would tell me (and so would their parents). Not only do you get to see them in a new light but, you can reach them in ways you never thought possible. When you start working with kids again [no matter where your classroom may be], keep in mind that their label is just one part of the “elephant.” Open your eyes to see all of who they are in their own amazingness.

(added as of 8/17/2020)

If you are looking for different ways to engage with your students who seem difficult to reach, perhaps because their communication skills are not their strengths or perhaps because you communicate differently than your students, my manual for classroom strategies may be exactly what you're looking for. Check it out!

If you're a teacher, SLP, parent, or educational stakeholder of any kind, good luck this new school year and keep being awesome!

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