One size does not fit all…

Square peg, round hole.  Take out your knife and slowly whittle away at the peg until it fits.  Until it is round.  Sometimes the pegs are metal, and you might need serious tools and a specialist to make it round.  Eventually many pegs loose their shape and become round, the ones that do not change shape are often thrown to the side, to be forgotten about, to become lost. Some, mostly due to parent’s diligence, make it through to a world that can only be changed by square pegs.

Such is school…such is so many of the PPTs that I attend.  I don’t necessarily blame the school, after all, we have a system that caters to round pegs.  Teachers, most of whom were round pegs themselves, sometimes have difficulty creating a classroom that accommodates different pegs.  Yes, there are modifications and accommodations but most fit into the category of shoe horn.  And with the testing culture becoming more prevalent, the shoe horns are only getting bigger.

I like square pegs, and I have seen many make their way into the Boy Scouts.  It is a place where square pegs can flourish.  I worked for the Boy Scouts for many years, and met many square pegs who fit right in.  I know Boy scouts troops can be very different even if they are in the same town, but if run correctly, Boy Scouts offers a kid the opportunity to actually learn “real world” style–especially well put together Eagle Scout service projects.

I recently attended a Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scout Court of Honor for a former student.  I was floored by a speech that was given.  I could not help think that this was a speech that every teacher should hear.  I emailed the person and asked if I could reprint it here.  With some minor changes, this is what was said:

Good Afternoon, first of all I would like to thank everyone for attending today, I am the scoutmaster of the Troop but today I am proud to be wearing my “Dad” uniform. I have had the opportunity to partake in many ECOH through my positions in Scouting, but the position of “Dad” is the most special of them all.

My wife and I are both very proud of what our son has achieved and this is especially true when I reflect back upon where he started.

At the age of two, our son had not developed his language skills.  Through our pediatrician, he was enrolled into the Birth to Three program, a state program for helping children with developmental issues.

We worked with some wonderful counselors and speech therapist.   During one of our early meetings I asked the speech therapists if they thought our son would ever be able to talk, and at that time they said that they “did not know if they would be able to get him to talk and there is no way to predict.” With a lot of hard work both at the clinic and at home, he did begin to talk. But he was still far behind children of his age.

At the age of three, our son entered the Public School Integrated Preschool program. Through a dedicated group of teachers and professionals he continued to make progress, but so do typical children, so there was still a very large gap.

Upon Kindergarten age, things changed again and from our perspective the focus shifted from instead of “what does our son need” to “what are we willing to give him”. We, as parents, could see how he had been progressing and wanted him to reach his full potential. The special education program seemed only to be interested in getting him to a statistical percentage at the bottom of the “normal” range.

The Planning and Placement Team meetings, have to be among some of the least pleasant experiences of my life. We felt as if we had to fight hard for every service that our son needed.  It was at one of the PPT  meeting that we were asked  “What were our expectations for his future”? We answered that  we expected him to graduate high school, go on to college and become a productive member of society.

I remember that there was total silence in the room and they looked back at me like I was from mars! It was obvious we were on totally different pages as to our son’s capabilities and they saw none of that in his future.

We were able to have a paraprofessional assigned to him and their dedication and skills were a large part of his successful integration into the classroom. We also sought out private counseling and therapist, and continued home therapies as well. Fortunately for us and our son, it worked. He will be graduating from High School in June, he will be attending the University of Connecticut and he is an Eagle Scout.

As much as I would like to take credit for this I cannot. The majority of the credit goes to our son and how his brain is wired allowing him to respond to the therapies and became the person you see before you today.

Therein lies the lesson for all of us who work with youth, don’t give up on the child, whether it be in school, scouts, sports, or any other youth activity. Just like the boy scout motto says always “do your best”  to find the key that unlocks their potential and their future.  You  may not succeed all the time, but changing one child’s future for the better is worth all the effort.

I would like to thank all the scout leaders, teachers, therapists, music educators, coaches, families and friends who helped our son and never gave up on his future.

In closing I would like to end with the words from a post my Dad made on Facebook upon hearing his grandson achieved Eagle. “You are the fourth generation involved in scouting in our family and our first Eagle Scout. You have made us all very proud”.

What are you doing for the square pegs?  What do you see in their future when they walk into your class?

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