When we think of our educational systems we know that their mode of operation is very predictable. There are standards, testing, classroom structure, schedules and teaching styles that typically attempt to convey information and measure knowledge with grades. However, for many students their learning styles are very different from what is the common regimen of most schools.
Imagine if a student doesn’t fit the mold of public or private education. They may have been traumatized and are dysregulated most of the day. They might be in the middle of a parental divorce. They may be addicted. They may have learning struggles or a form of attention deficit.
They may simply be uncomfortable in large settings and feeling anxious about their relationships or lack thereof. They may have been bullied and are avoiding school altogether which to them is a place of non-acceptance. They may feel they just don’t fit in the typical academic setting.
Many of these students find themselves failing, being judged or labeled and some may even go into a mental health crisis. Often they become truant as they are avoiding school and may even drop out as soon as they are allowed. Some simply do not participate in the normal daily school routine and in their avoidance are confronted about their lack of commitment. The list of reasons for failure goes on. And the result is that their families also can go into crisis over the chaos of it all.
As Lakeside encounters thousands of students who are struggling to stay in school, we have recognized that our approach cannot be the same as that of typical school environments. If students struggle with their school it is clear that they are having trouble adapting to those regimens. If we are committed to success with their education it makes sense that we have to make some adjustments in order for them to engage and to maintain progress throughout their school experience.
I recognize that schools have a difficult time making adjustments to the many unique needs of students. However, I believe there can be a middle ground where education can be adaptable. We find that students can find success in environments that feel safe, flexible, open to different approaches, practical and supportive to a variety of ways to learn and grow. We know that building trusting relationships is key to their ability to learn. When trauma or adversity is evident in their lives, we must find ways to process that with them over time. It takes flexibility, patience, clear communication with a lot of affirmation, engaging discipline systems, opportunities to regulate their emotions and a sense of community where they are accepted and supported by the staff. It makes sense that if students struggle to adapt, maybe education can become more adaptable with an understanding of their needs and capacities.
It is easier to manage classrooms and to provide therapeutic resources for students who struggle with their education if schools are smaller like Lakeside schools. Education that is adaptable can provide more promise for success if they meet students where they are, take the time to understand their needs and creatively provide opportunities for students to find ways to find a meaningful learning experience. That kind of adaptable education can make a huge difference in their lives and to possibilities of a fulfilling future.