Convergent and Divergent Thinkers

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Thoreau

This week, I fell in love with a boy named Christopher. In particular, I fell in love with his ability to think, feel, sense and relate differently because it is something that I value and aspire to model in my daily interactions so that, in kind, everyone can come to honour different ways of viewing and understanding the world.

Christopher is not real. He is the main character in the novel by Mark Haddon, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. A friend sent it to me as it is based in his hometown and he wanted me to have a better understanding of where he grew up. He never intended it as a reminder of what is important to value, but, serendipitously, it was. See, Christopher is different. He processes information, feels and communicates in manners which are considered outside of the norm. Haddon, the author, would say that “Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger’s...if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way. The book is not specifically about any specific disorder.” (Blog, 2009)

Being able to live with and through Christopher’s thought processes, as he narrated the story, was eye opening and empathy building. Having worked with many convergent and divergent thinkers throughout my 18 years in education, this tale has left me even more deeply convinced that convergent, divergent, plain old different, are concepts that need to be at the forefront of creating an inclusive environment. Having this particular insight and understanding of how particular students’ minds work and how to support them in being their best selves by meeting them where they are, is a gift.

According to research, children who think differently also tend to have a number of learning and socio-emotional challenges that oftentimes are unrecognized or easily labelled. Hands on learning, experiential education, intense focus on what matters to them, tend to be typical learning modalities. According to research, approximately 1 in 10 children present with different learning needs, and boys are five times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Though there is no cure for learning challenges, early detection and interventions can be very successful. Strategy building and skill development are essential. The ways in which students with learning needs acquire and demonstrate understanding, think and problem-solve ranges. With Christopher, his problem-solving abilities were quite high, while others can find these skills exceptionally challenging.

What resonated most and was a powerful reminder is that no one child presents the same as another. As educators, that is critical to remember when aiming to meet the individual needs of our students. And rather than focussing on what they cannot do, let’s focus on what talents, creativity, skills, and perspectives they bring to the table. Rather than focussing on how oftentimes students who struggle in school (typically very conservative institutions) do not have jobs or post graduate education after high school, let’s think of the larger majority who are employed, educated and innovative because of the supports put into place early on, and the warm and caring environments that have allowed them to thrive.

Complex organizations benefit from different skill sets, perspectives, modes of interaction and tendencies. They are like puzzle pieces; equally valued, necessary and connected. The exact required ratio fluctuates depending on the situation, but, certainly, we want a nice mix of representation in order to grow, develop empathy, embrace difference and move forward.

Sources:

Jennifer Wyatt

Comments

Jennifer - thank you for sharing this! Navigating differences of any kind is challenging but as I often say these differences are the child’s super power and it’s our job as parents and educators who influence them along the way to help them learn to harness these superpowers to do good in the world. What a gift to be able to see the world in new and original ways ;-). Tysm

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