Let’s say that you are tasked with creating a learning program and facility to support people in your geographic community. What decisions would you make? What are your values? What are your limited resources to support everyone? Is there a model that fits the needs of everyone? What could that mean, what are the needs of everyone and could they possibly be similar?
Above is a graphic from the University of Virginia that shows a basic normal distribution. Our best guesses are based on this very useful and powerful tool. However, the normal distribution has limits. The normal distribution is a macro-analysis tool. It falls short when understanding the needs of an individual; each individual with a long list of characteristics that may fit somewhere on its own normal distribution. No wonder creating education programs are so challenging! How can schools be everything to everyone?
Who are we?
We are the result of a “norm-referenced” system geared towards helping as many people as possible. We are assigned to groups, classifications, and sub-classifications in order to help the system get us ready for a standard life geared towards achievement and “making it.” What groups have you been assigned based on academics, athletics, disabilities, social cliques, and subjective attractiveness? For each one of these classifications, it doesn’t matter if you are on the “high end” or “low end” of the scale or somewhere in between. How are you predefining yourself based on your classification? How do you limit and/or judge yourself based on your classifications?
What are we to do?
We need to shake off the shackles of the system. Our first step is to redefine ourselves away from being a blip on many normal distributions that assigns us to classifications for which many struggle to understand and support ourselves. We don’t have to accept any particular identity assigned to us. Instead, what is suggested is to create your own identity based on allowing yourself to be a joyful tinkerer of your own life based on your choices.
Take a chance. Let go of your categories and get to understand the ever-changing nuances and moments that influence you. Seek out resources and community members from whom you can draw out information and tools. Play with new information and practice new habits. Share your opinion and experiences while being there for others as we all try to make sense and make things work. Appreciate that you are someone who is learning from each experience and working towards a positive set of steps in your life. Appreciate that you are both independently in charge of yourself, while at the same time a member of a broader community helping each other.