“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
This quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein. At least, it sounds like something insightful he’d say. Anyway, regardless of its origin or attribution, it’s a powerful criticism that is regularly levied at the education system.
Just like it is inappropriate to judge an animal by focusing on a skill which it doesn’t possess, state education is often condemned for adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. Much like the expert swimmer, the fish, being judged on its inability to climb a tree, many students find themselves judged against criteria they simply aren’t able to meet. Often, they’re expected to learn in ways that they simply cannot manage.
In short, it’s a case of square pegs being forced into round holes.
Rounding off the Edges
But that’s not to say that these students are not capable or able. It’s just that they’re a little rough around the edges. Perhaps it’s simply that they have an edge. Whatever it is, their needs are very different from their mainstream counterparts. Therefore, it’s unreasonable to expect them to follow mainstream methodologies and succeed. Quite the opposite, actually. By not catering for their needs they become frustrated, more alienated, and convinced that they are incapable. Believing that they are stupid.
You can’t try rounding off the edges in the hope they’ll fit in. People don’t work like that. And all too often we forget that students are people too.
And when anyone experiences continual feelings of low self-worth, problems arise.
Enter the non-association independent school.
Life on the Edge
Non association independent schools are like Sherpas, ready to guide and assist the helpless fish up the tree.
They are the forgotten and unsung heroes of the education sector. We should be grateful that they exist. When mainstream education is unable to provide for a young person’s complex needs, non-association independent schools are there to offer them the specialist support and empathy they need to find success.
These young people who have not managed well in mainstream education — some of whom may have been out of education for long periods of time, unable to find suitable provision — they don't’ deserve to be made to feel stupid. Worthless. Incapable.
“Everybody is a genius.”
So we should all be grateful that non-association independent schools exist.
Here to Help
We should be thankful that there are so many people out there willing to help these marginalised students. Individuals with the desire to make a difference in young people’s lives and the courage of their convictions to create an educational provision for these students. Students who many have previously given up on.
Because that’s what non-association independent schools sometimes are. A last chance saloon. A last safe haven for young people struggling to fit into the current educational model. The young people I have come across as a teacher, and those I speak to now when I visit schools as a consultant, confirm this.
Recently, I was brought to tears by a 16-year-old girl who spoke passionately about the teachers at her school. She said:
“I know they really care about me. When I am having a bad day and I play up, they take the time to find out what I am going through and help me get back to a place where I can join in again. They are not just here for the money, they really care about what happens to me and they want me to do well.”
In short, non-association independent schools are the singular vision of principled individuals who believe these students deserve more. They deserve better. A better education than they have been afforded thus far.
People who start specialist non-association independent school provisions have taken a long hard look at what’s available in the mainstream education sector and believe they can do better. They believe they must do better. Because they’ve identified something specific that is not being done well. There’s a gap or a flaw in the system, where a group of young people are not being served as best as they could be by the existing system.
This is something that proprietors of non-association independent schools have in common. They are extremely passionate about taking care of such pupils.
In the words of a former employer of mine, who was the Proprietor of such a school: “Many say that these young people are trouble. But they're not. These young people are troubled.”
They don't act the way they do because they are actively trying to be difficult. They act the way they do because of what they've gone through. And some of the things that these young people have experienced are truly awful. So, it's nice to know that there are people out there taking care of them.
Because they deserve a chance to be a genius.
Why would a fish want to climb a tree anyway?
If you'd like to talk about how we can help support your non-association Independent School, contact us today.