love is the solutionIf you heard that I am a language arts tutor/teacher at SailAway Learning, chances are high that a few specific ideas would jump to mind. You would likely imagine that I am a grammar stickler, that I believe clear communication to be vitally important, and you have probably assumed these qualities mean that I encourage my students to write well.

These assumptions are correct; I want my students to emerge from my classroom well-equipped to tackle any communication challenges. Even more than that, however, is my passion inherent in this calling—my purpose at SailAway is not just to educate my students, but to create a learning environment where they can flourish.

Take Dylan (not his real name) for example: since early middle school, he developed real and nigh-insurmountable anxiety about learning in a classroom. Though incredibly bright, he has learning gaps due to a nasty combination of depression and fear of asking questions. Ultimately, these challenges became so difficult that he decided that learning wasn’t worth trying anymore. His well-considered public school did not and could not provide the right environment for him to learn. What they offered was passive learning—expecting students to learn by listening and taking notes.  Dylan could not thrive in such an environment because he does not learn through passive learning. What he needed—and what I endeavor to offer—is safety and affirmation in an environment molded to his academic needs, not to someone else’s.

My responsibility as his teacher is to affirm and assure that asking questions is a positive and wonderful tool by which to learn; that failing is a part of learning and does not mean that he is a failure. Over time, through intentional care, he is learning—slowly, but nevertheless persistently—that he is so much more capable and there is so much more to him than he believes.

Dylan’s is just one story: stories told about non-typical learners who should thrive in a traditional learning environment and don’t. These are the students who fall through the cracks. Their learning struggles frustrate achievement in regular classrooms, yet they’re much too capable for special ed. These are the kids with average to superior intelligence and ability, yet perform far below their potential.

The solution is a different approach. The solution is intentional love and acceptance.

I know the impact of SailAway’s love because it is my story too. I was that falling-through-the-cracks kid. Just like my student, I had those same diagnostic and academic assessments administered in high school to figure out why in the world I struggled to complete my homework. Through intentional, loving instruction, Brenda Murphy revised my understanding of myself and my strengths—both personal and academic. I owe much of my philology to her. Without that? I can say in all certainty that I would not be where I am today.

I know first-hand how much of what we do at SailAway changes lives because it changed mine.