Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum

I have always loved the children’s book, Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae. It tells the story of all the animals in the jungle holding an annual dance, but poor Gerald the Giraffe can’t dance. “This year when the day arrived, poor Gerald felt so sad, because when it came to dancing he was really very bad.” Other animals laughed at him saying, “Giraffes can’t dance you silly fool, oh Gerald you’re so weird.” Gerald froze up and thought they must be right about him, he felt so sad and so alone. As he walked home he came across a cricket who told him, “Sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song”. When he listened to the swaying grass and to the trees and the music of the branches in the breeze, he was able to dance a beautiful dance and the other animals were amazed. Gerald tells them, “We all can dance, when we find music that we love”.

I love this book as it finds a way to show and celebrate Gerald’s strengths. As a Learning Support Teacher, sometimes students I work with, feel that they are not good enough or that they are different to everyone else and that this is a negative thing. I believe it is so important to find ways for them, and others, to recognise their strengths and to celebrate them.

I recently saw a video in which author and speaker Jonathan Mooney, a man who struggled at school and was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD, spoke about the importance of finding and celebrating each person’s strengths and abilities. I found this inspiring as an educator and as a parent, to not be focussed on ‘fixing’ children’s disabilities or differences, but finding their strengths and talents and helping them build a life on that.

Jonathan Mooney says, “I believed because I was different I was deficient – I was the stupid, crazy and lazy kid. I’ve come to believe that these things that we’ve labelled to be deficiencies or disorders aren’t that, they are differences in the truest sense of the word. The thing that really disables individuals are the way those differences are treated by others. A foundation of my journey of change was a deep commitment to not just fixing kids problems, but finding and celebrating and scaling their strengths. It’s all about finding that thing they are good at. I want to spend my time celebrating the potential of those kids who learn and live differently. Every single human being has a strength or a talent or interest that you can find and you can build a life on. Find your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.”

I believe, as Rita Pierson says, every child needs a champion – an adult in their world who will help them develop their strengths and believe in their ability to do great things. It is also important to help children be aware of areas they need support or adjustments to enhance their learning. A combination of a champion who believes in them, accommodations for their differences and a celebration of their strengths can help to empower our children to be all that they can be!

Mrs Debbie Hall / Senior School Learning Support Coordinator

*References used to write this blog article include.

Giraffes Can’t Dance

Jonathan Mooney  Goalcast video   (warning, does contain one unsavoury word)

Rita Pierson Every Kid Needs a Champion