Dr. Stanley Greenspan died this week; he was a great man. His official web page described him as: “Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School and Chairman of the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders. The world’s foremost authority on clinical work with infants and young children with developmental and emotional problems, his work has guided parents, professionals and researchers all over the world.”
Dr. Greenspan taught me new ways to teach struggling students. I first met him six years ago when a parent suggested his training course. When I heard him teach the Developmental Individual-difference Relationship Model (DIR), bells and whistles went off in my head on how to teach non-typical learners. His model examines the student in the areas of home life, biomedical profile, sensory profile, and emotional development. This model gave me the additional inroads to students and knowledge of how and when to offer new areas of support. I used Dr. Greenspan’s work as a framework for teaching. This was the beginning of my educational revolution.
When I call for an educational revolution, I am not proposing that teachers know every aspect of a student’s home life, biomedical profile, sensory profile, and emotional development. What I am stating is that creating a relationship with your students and having some knowledge of their home life is important in building educational success primarily with low achieving and struggling learners. The fact that a student chews on his or her pencil or gets up ten times to throw out a piece of paper provides information about how calm their body is or is not in the educational setting. If a student is not creating ideas independently, he or she could have challenges in emotional development. With the use of this model, test scores and lives will flip in a positive direction.
This is the first line of defense I choose to fight, teaching struggling students how to engage learning to be successful well-rounded citizens. For example, three families contacted me in the last two weeks to ask for help with their children’s education in public school. One was an AP student with auditory processing, another an Asperger’s student with an accommodation (504) plan and lastly, a student who left public school for private school only to find out he was not understood there either. The tools I learned from Dr. Greenspan assisted these struggling learners in ways others tools did not. Regardless of the area of educational reform (privatization, standardized test scores, disempowerment of teachers, or corporate influence) the struggling learner is demanding our attention, and focusing on the struggling learner is necessary to make change.