Archive for May, 2009

Support, love and encouragment

What continues to strike me so far when learning about the people and issues that have had learning challenges or LD is how essential it is to for anyone with learning challenges (and I might go on to say, that for me, really anyone learning) is to have love and support. This seems really a key determining factor in most of the success stories that I’ve read so far.

The other amazing thing is to look at the stories of people who have been highly successful in their lives, despite being extremely challenged to read or write, to figure math, or to be organized. What inspiring examples to the need testimony of perseverance and belief in the possibilities that may be. It’s also interesting to note that many were driven by the frustration or anger of feeling like they were “dumb”, or that they were rejected by teachers and administrators or the system. They seemed to want to prove to everyone they could make it despite the challenges they faced. And I can understand that they didn’t publicized their challenges, the world would have castigated them and often did for how they didn’t fit the model of what was considered normal.

So often it seemed that teachers had such a set idea about intelligence having to do with reading, writing and the 1, 2, 3’s and that if one didn’t meet that idea one was cast out… One person called it not a ‘learning disability’, but rather a ‘teaching disability’. That seems quite right on. I think I have run into quite a lot of teaching disability in my own journey. What is there to learn from this? To understand that there are diffferent ways of learning? To realize that there may be intelligence despite one’s inability to read, or write to do math? Any still, what about those who are not so intelligence? Are they less of a human being?

One of the things that struck me was that for many who have gone through such challenges they seem to have developed a heightened ability to understand others, communicate, and have respect for others wherever they are. Even being in an advance position in their work life, they seemed be able to keep present to the fact that others may have challenges too. This seems to have come through the adversity and constant failure they faced and seem to continue to face. What a gift!


Learning about adults with Learning Disabilities

Today was our first class with Dr Gerber. I found it quite engaging. The approach that we are people first and any kind of disability is second resonates well with me. It seems to be important to first of all connect with others at the level of being a human being. If I can remember this and really be present with my heart no matter what the challenges the other person is dealing with, then I’ve found there to be opportunities for a deeper connection and, I think, the respect for the potential of the other to contribute, whatever they can. Of course, there are my own challenges that may prevent such a state of being present. However, it has happened from time-to-time (somehow), and I hope that by becoming more conscious of what’s involved in learning disabilities that it will be possible to be more fully present more frequently.

One of the things that strikes me is that despite the challenges that are faced, people are able to go beyond the limitations and become successful in a wide variety of fields or areas of life. It seems that what is considered a ‘normal’ way of learning or doing something is perhaps just what is more common among a majority of people. It doesn’t mean it is necessarily the only way to do something or the only way to look at something. Surely, there are a variety of perspectives that are valid. And while it seems that there are many challenges with being learning disabled, there is also the possibility of the challenges being a motivating force to put in more effort which may also involve finding a different way to do something. And in this different way of seeing, doing (and perhaps feeling about…), there’s the chance to arrive at a perspective that might be quite new and fresh.

I guess one of the challenges to deal with is to somehow broaden the perspective about what is considered ‘normal’ in regards to how people with learning disabilities can function. In this regard, it seems important for anyone with learning disabilities, when deemed appropriate to be able to be specific about just what their learning disability is (particularly in the environment of education or a job). And yes, I can see that at other times in various types of social settings, it is not necessary at all to mention having a learning disability.

And if i really look at the list of various types of learning disabilities, I can find quite a few for which I raised my own hand. I guess most of us human beings have some degree of learning disability in some areas of our life. Perhaps that’s part of being human! The issue may be that in recognize at least some degree of our own disability, we may then be able to more easily accept and support others with learning disabilites.

Sprouting perspectives…

I enjoyed the team building activity on Monday. It was a nice way to finish the last class gathering. The photos to pick from were really powerful images and could be used for so many similar type activities. It’s a nice way to have people reflect and share their thinking in a way that others can relate to. Taking images from everyday life that we are familiar with in some way and then using them to tell a story about how you see something or another. It really seems to open up another avenue of connection. This is definitely a socially oriented activity. However, to me it was also definitely related to our task work in the class and our teams.

And now, the semester is over and “Learning in Groups and Teams” is also now an item that I can add to my shoebox. I think many seeds have been planted during this semester. They will need some further nourishing from the nutrients found in the soil of persistence, the light of action, the air of courage, the water of reflection, and the spirit of inquiry…

I really enjoyed this class. It was especially rewarding to get to know and work with my teammates of the Infrareds. Yet, it was a bit odd to not get to know others in the class so well, too. It’s clear that it was by working in the smaller group on projects that we had the opportunity to get to know each other better and also learn from each other.

Until we meet again, somewhere or another along the journey…


I wanted to post this video that Ruth found for our paradoxes team presentation/learning activity. I like the feeling it carries and it does bring up some of the paradoxes of life today in a globalized world.

The paradoxes explored in Smith and Berg’s “Paradoxes of Group Life” are such a fascinating topic.  It seems we so often want to have a final answer to a problem or situation. However, the concept of the paradox is that you can have two seemingly contradictory views that are both essentially true. Woa! Ruminate on that for a while, and a while longer…

Identity – if I join the group (or perhaps even have an exchange with another individual…?), will I loose my identity? But maybe I could also gain something about myself if I step out.

And then there’s disclosure – if I disclose the parts of myself I am unhappy with and want to change, maybe I will be rejected by the other(s). And if I don’t, I won’t really be authentic. I’m only making a show. How much do I reveal?

And what really caught my attention was the paradox of authority. It is about authorizing – both others and myself. If I authorize another to act on my behalf, then in a sense it means I am giving my part in that act to them to carry out. To me, this implies a need for trust. That my ideas, interests, hopes, needs are taken into consideration by the other. Of course, I know that my views and interests may not always be the best or most effective way to go, but at least if they are considered and valued, it would be a motivation for me to continue contributing energetically and enthusiastically. Then there is the idea that with authority there is the access to power. And power can be used for yourself or it can be used to empower others. If you only take the power and use it for yourself, then others will not feel like their contributions are valued and may loose motivation and interest and creativity… However, if the one who has access to power uses it to empower others, then others will feel valued and then the one who has given the power away will also get it back…!! bizarre..

This makes me look at the concept of power differently. I used to have difficulty with the concept of power, but now I see that it is really just the way it is used. I guess the challenge is that when you have access to power, you get a bit intoxicated by it and then don’t like giving it away so much! In a sense, it seems that real power is about recognizing the ability of others to be of value and contribute, at least in their potential to do so. It’s about giving away any power you have.

But then, there are times that it’s surely necessary to authorize yourself too. Yes, indeed, what a paradox. and… what a dance!

Systems Thinking and Transparency

The Infrareds finished our third and final project for the class. It’s been quite interesting to see how our team has evolved over the semester and quite fascinating to simultaneously study the many facets involve in group and team work. Levi covers much of the theoretical underpinnings and Schwarz gives many, many practical guidelines for becoming more effective.

The mutual learning model is very powerful in concept, but it really seems to be a change in our natural tendencies. One aspect that i’ve found significant is trying to be transparent in what I’m thinking, saying and doing, too. This means becoming more aware of my mental habits such as making inferences and assumptions, jumping to conclusions, etc – basically, acting unilaterally. i do find that when in more stressful or emotionally charged situations that i seem default to thinking more unilaterally – right/wrong, good/bad, me/them… It brings to mind a poem from Rumi that I’ve really found helpful at times:

Out Beyond there is a Field

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

~ Rumi

That’s straying a bit into the spiritual realm, however, to me it is an attempt to apply higher values to daily life. Models like the Mutual Learning Model and the Skilled Facilitator Approach (SFA) seem to be useful tools to put into practice some of the higher values that connect us as human beings. The challenge most often seems to be points of view or habits of mind that tend towards the unilateral approach. These seem so ingrained and it takes some time to get a different perspective… Intellectually, it seems quite clear that acting unilaterally is ineffective and leads to unintended consequences, most often not positive — although these may be good learning opportunities, now that I have tools such as the mutual learning model and the SFA.

For me, some sort of reflective practice is really important to get some insight into how some habits or points of view are not in line with my core or higher values. I have found that meditation has been extremely helpful for me. After our presentation on Monday, I realized that I could have shared this with the class. However, I didn’t disclose this. Probably, because I feel it is a very personal part of my life and I don’t want to push my preferences on someone else. However, I feel like if i had to make the presentation again, I would share how meditation has helped me as a reflective practice.

When the Infrareds met Monday before class to prepare for our presentation, Penny shared a situation from work where she was trying to apply the SFA in a meeting and one of her co-workers jumped in over her and acted in a unilateral way. It was an opportunity for all of us to reflect and see if she could have done anything differently. After our presentation, I realized such a live situation could have been a very good learning opportunity for us to use in our presentation. However, we didn’t quite think of until afterward! bookmarks