A friend of mine had a stroke about a year and a half ago. As his recovery continues, he has become a popular writer at a traumatic brain injury blog.

I promise that this has something to do with teaching ESL.


Isaac hates therapy (physical, speech, occupational – you name it) and won’t attend. Nobody who knows him is surprised.

He’s in charge of his own recovery, and his self-determined program has been impressively successful. Nobody who knows him is surprised.

He recently explained for those who don’t know him why he’s done with therapy:

“My doctor tells me all the time I have a strong and disciplined mind, but I never underwent a therapy that acknowledged that I might already have something going for me and work from there.”


“We are all individuals and what is best for one of us is not necessarily what works for others; if no two brain injuries are alike, why is so much therapy one size fits all? No one else can know what each of us needs most, so why not individually tailored therapy?”

And maybe most unnerving to me,

…I have to wonder how much [caregivers] listen to what those in their care have to say or what they think. I have to wonder how many are prepared to deviate from the pre-written script and meet those under their care where they really are.


Is it just me or is there a pretty clear corollary to learning and education in general?


Does my teaching acknowledge what students already have going for them and work from there?

Does my teaching begin from the premise that no two brains are alike?

Does my teaching style welcome fiercely independent, blindingly intelligent people like Isaac? Or is there only room for the most quiet, compliant personalities?

Do I listen? Or is it all about “my teaching?”


And my favorite perennial conundrum: balancing the need to teach a syllabus as part of an educational sequence in a degree-earning program with the need to teach the unique individuals who are in my classrooms.


Photo CreditLara Danielle on Flickr

You’re reading Brains, originally posted at

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