In the majority of cases we, humans, try not to think about the things we have not personally faced. We try to replace the understanding of such things with simplified concepts and ideas. This is just the case with the problem, brought up by Rob Schindler in his eye opening book “Hot Dogs and Hamburgers” (Schindler, 2012). In this book the author shares his unique experience of volunteering at a centre, for the illiterate adults. The reason why he found himself in this position was very simple – he faced the problem of which he had never thought before. His life situation made him face the problem very closely, as his son had a serious learning disability.
One among the major problems he was facing was the long term memory. Oliver could not keep things in his memory for longer periods of time. His father tried hard to teach Oliver to read, but his attempts were quite fruitless. At that moment he had an idea of trying to go and teach other difficult learners to read. Such learners would be the adults. It seemed to Rob that his son was facing similar problems as they. And, likewise, the severity of the problems he was facing were the outcome of the school system failing to cope with a non-typical case. Rob thought that he’d go and learn to resolve a more complicated task – teaching adult people, whom he did not love, and then teaching his on beloved son would appear to be a much easier task.
The educational system was full of misconceptions about learning disabilities and in many instances such were automatically related to mental abilities of the learner. This is a very common and a very severe misconception, and it leads to a very simple outcomes: the system simply gives up on such people, leaving them illiterate as they are. However, in adulthood these literacy issues cause a lot of trouble to such people, starting with simple routine inconveniences, such as inability to read through the instruction for the medicine, and ending with the problems in their families, inability to help their children learn.
The techniques applied to Rob at school were designed for a generalized case, for somebody who is lazy or mentally less capable. They did not take into account individual peculiarities. The approach used by Rob was quite different. With all his patience and interest in individual peculiarities of each learner he tried to reach into the very essence of the problems faced by them. This particularly related to Oliver. Rob would not give up until he’s had a result. Even though sometimes emotions nearly took control over him. In many instances it was very difficult from the emotional stand point even to his adult students to cope with their emotional reactions, disappointment and frustration, not even mentioning his son.
The motivation Rob had for writing the book was very clearly articulated by him. He wrote: “Turns out, whether sitting in a temple, a church, a diner, or a downtown classroom, we’re all here to teach each other something… We don’t often concern ourselves with social injustices unless and until we find them relevant inside our own world. We are obligated to help each other become better” (Schindler, 2012). This is true. A lot depends on us personally. In every situation when we are tempted to feel helpless and to justify our passivity through this helplessness, there is always this option to go ahead and change something. Each person in every situation can make this change. And this is what it takes to cope with the hopeless cases of learning disabilities, the cases upon which the entire education system gives up, but a single loving heart can effectively cope.
- Schindler, Rob (2012). Hot Dogs and Hamburgers. River Grove Books.