By: Kurt Moellering, Head of School
Learning difference or learning disability? “Difference” is a much more accurate and humane term than “disability.” After all, all our students have the ability to learn; they simply learn differently. Difference can be good. Difference can be essential. Difference makes us who we are. At Learning Prep we love the differences in our students. And yet I know some of our students hate their learning differences. Before they came to Learning Prep, our students’ differences may have made them feel out of place, isolated, or not as smart as their classmates. One of the best things about coming to a school like Learning Prep is that those differences are seen, recognized, celebrated, and addressed. New LPS students will walk into our classrooms and think, “Finally! These kids learn like I do!” We have heard this over and over. Our students see themselves in their classmates. This acknowledgement is one of the things that allows our students to make progress for the simple fact that stereotype threat is diminished. We know our students can learn; we expect them to learn. Their difference is not negated, but it is no longer something they have to hide.
But what about our students of color? Or our students who are LGBTQ+? Do they get the same relief of recognition by simply walking in the door? Do they look around the classroom and say, “Finally?” I can’t say definitively since I have not asked this question enough. But I do know that Learning Prep must help to create an environment where each of our students can come into the building and see their whole self represented, reflected, and respected.
The mission of Learning Prep School is to provide an education for students with language-based learning differences. All we do here, every day, is to that end. This has been true for the 50-year history of our school and will remain true for the next 50 years. However, we cannot fulfil this mission if we keep explicit or implicit barriers to education up for any of our students. Learning differences are acknowledged and celebrated here. This philosophy marks how we do our work with our students and how we meet the high expectations of our mission. Acknowledging and celebrating other essential aspects of our students’ identities will likewise help us fulfill our mission. In other words, a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) helps us do our mission better.
To address the topic of DEI at Learning Prep, the Educational Leadership Team here has been focused on this as our main topic for discussion at each of our weekly meetings since we participated in Dr. Kendi’s webinar a few weeks ago. We will soon be inviting others into these conversations, and I ask all of you to watch for an opportunity to get involved. In this week’s newsletter is an invitation for our families of color and for our families with students of color to connect with one another.
At Learning Prep, we celebrate differences. This makes our community stronger. As a school, we stand with our families of color and students of color; we stand with our LGBTQ+ community; and we stand with all our students who have learning differences.