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The Most Important Thing About Teaching

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Teacher tips for dealing with mentally challenged students.  
Submitted by Julian Stein, George Mason University, Virginia.


BACKGROUND: For over 35 years, I have been privileged to work with children, youth, young adults, and adults labeled as mentally retarded. Their friendships have been among the precious highlights of what I consider to be a most personally rewarding and satisfying professional career.

I have learned much from them individually and collectively, especially about the important and lasting things related to teaching and life.

1.) Be Yourself: Be straightforward and honest in all your relationships. Don’t bend the truth just because it might benefit yourself.

2.) Know This: Responsibility, dependability, loyality, dedication, commitment, and competence are all learned qualities not reserved for or lacking in any particular population.

3.) Grow Success: The best way to break the cycle of failure and frustration is to strive for success and achievement. Success, no matter how small, is still success!

4.) Simple Rules: The foundation for all learning and zestful living is based on two simple concepts: “Keep it Super Simple” and “Make it Fun.”

5.) Insult-Free Environment: Never insult intelligence, experience, and chronological age of any individual by talking down, watering down, or “babying” an individual!

6.) Encourage Personal Growth: Help individuals set and reach those goals that are important to them.

7.) Value the Individual: Avoid placing too much value and emphasis on norm referenced assessment results. I’d rather see a norm than be one!

8.) Three Rules that Govern all Teaching: Three things every teacher should do -

(1.) Make haste slowly.

(2.) Teach less and teach it better.

(3.) If it doesn’t work, do it a different way!

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