Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thursday, May 25, Chapter 25: Process vs. Diagnosis

I was working with a child today, and as he and I deepened awareness of his connection of his legs and arms to the center of himself, we talked a bit, too. He said of his ability to remember things, “I can’t.” I decided to introduce the idea, “Can’t yet.”

I pointed to a nearby chair and asked him if he could jump up on it. No. So this was something he “Can’t yet,” do. We looked at a twelve foot high shade structure outside and decided that jumping up to this probably warranted a “Can’t.” Then at the end of the class, I asked what we’d talked about earlier about how to talk a little differently. He couldn’t remember. Fine. That’s why I was reviewing it, to bring it back in. I pointed to the chair. “Oh, yeah. I can’t yet.” And the shade structure, “Can’t.”

I was pleased with this, and yet his teacher pointed out the deep significance that he hadn’t remembered what we’d talked about. Yeah, yeah, but then he did, I said, but she was on the way to something else. Next time I see her, I’ll ponder with her whether she might benefit from thinking about how he “can’t yet” learn to remember things, rather than being so vigilante in pinning down his inabilities.

What is learning, anyway? You take something you can’t do yet, and learn how to do it. You take something that seems all the same to you and learn to distinguish differences. Big and pig, kind of the same, with an important difference. Two plus three and two plus four, how are they the same, how are they different? Forget the right answer, what’s is the process of working toward a right answer?

To the teacher, his inability was the big deal. To me, the process of taking a concept and making it concrete was the exciting and interesting process, the idea jumping up on the chair, someday vs. jumping over the shade structure, no way. The differences and how they could manifest in his language.

I don’t know if all teachers like to seize on the shortcomings of their pupils, and this teacher will go to bat for kids that officials want to pigeonhole and put away in ridiculous programs, but this is the tendency in our whole culture. Sore shoulder? Get a diagnosis. Find a surgeon or a physical therapist to “fix” it. Sore shoulder as a chance to learn how I’m using myself poorly, how I could use myself more efficiently and gracefully: that’s too cumbersome. That requires learning. That requires a process of examination and trail and error.

What a pity when the world is all about finding what’s wrong and rooting it out instead of finding possibilities for learning and improvement and going with this.


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