This story is as close as I can get to a parable. I have written it to illustrate just one of the aspects of what happens when children with vastly different learning needs, such as SEN and EAL, are lumped together. It isn’t about a real little boy – and it’s not about my little boy; he’s way too bossy and grumpy to star in this one!
There was once a little boy. He was a lovely little boy; a bright, sunny personality, lots of friends, always polite, always ate his tea. He went to the school down the road from his house, where all the children loved him, and all the teachers loved him too.
The little boy didn’t have the best start in life. His family was poor (although that’s not supposed to be an impediment), but loving. They gave him the best they could, but his health wasn’t always as good as it could be, and, unfortunately, when he went to school, he found it hard to keep up the pace. Before long, he was a long way behind.
The little boy enjoyed his lessons. Someone was found to help him, to make sure he understood and kept on the right track. His helper was kind. His teachers were kind. Everyone was kind, but it wasn’t enough. Despite all his wonderful qualities, his cheeky sense of humour, his calm temperament, his kindness to others, he slipped further and further down the rankings. His cause was a concern.
So the good people tried something else. The little boy wasn’t the only one who was finding learning hard. Perhaps it would be better if he wasn’t so alone. So he worked with other children so that they could concentrate on the foundations and get them right.
They found a lovely room, with books on the shelves, bright pictures on the walls and beautiful chairs and tables. A comfortable rug on the floor. Brand new felt tips and coloured pencils still sorted into the right boxes in the tray. The little boy and his new friends were delighted.
He settled down to work with a will. At last his work was making sense! And more than that, the little boy who had struggled for so long discovered that he could help someone else who was struggling too.
He loved his teacher, and his teacher loved watching the way he confounded the expectations of his peers. He loved seeing dismay turn to friendship, uncertainty to pleasure. The little boy enjoyed his new found popularity, and his new friends learned an important lesson about life, as well as their letters.
But, just as all in the classroom was rosy, along came the winds of change. One day the little boy came to his lesson and his friend did not. In his place was someone new; uncertain and distustful.
So, the little boy started again. He knew that new people could feel lonely, so he did his best to be friendly, and show his new partner the ropes. He knew that he could help with his reading and his writing, how to say the words that the new one stumbled over, so he did.
Again, his teacher watched as he broke down barriers, showed someone else who didn’t know that everyone has something to give, but inside she worried for the little boy. She hoped that he would not wonder why it was his friends who moved up and out and never him, and resolved to tell him, should he ever ask why, that it was those very qualities she first noticed; his kindness, his steadiness, his willingness to work hard, that kept him where he was needed; a welcomer, a shower of the way to children lost in a sea of language.
She kept her worries behind her eyes and she hoped that the little boy would not become discouraged by the loss of his new friends to a different class while he stayed stuck, overtaken again and again and again.
She hoped he would never notice that, even though she knew she hoped in vain.