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In Praise of Individualized Education

Individualized Education

There’s a clickbait headline if ever you saw one, eh?

What if I told you, though, that “individualized education” might be single-handedly responsible for every significant success in my life, and it’s central to my success today?

Still no?

Well, I’m giving two back-to-back presentations on individualized education at a pretty reputable conference on Friday. Does that count for something?

Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.

The correct answer is, “Yes, it does. It clearly makes you an expert on the topic, and an expert demands enough respect for me to read this thing through to the end. …As long as it’s not too long.”

Okay, fine. I’ll be brief. Thanks for your slightly-coerced respect.

Individualization Changed Everything for Me

I was a pretty good kid growing up. I followed the rules, colored inside the lines & became very addicted to pleasing my teachers as they spoon-fed me what I needed to know for the tests.

Like many in my boat, that led to a pretty big culture shock once I hit college & had more chances to make decisions by myself. I survived it, though most of freshman year was spent hiding in my dorm room & reading back issues of X-Men.

The thing that jolted me out of my comfort zone involved sitting across from my academic advisor one day and asking, “Why don’t you ever offer that play writing class from the course catalog?”

Turns out it was available as an independent study if the professor agreed to it. So was the directing class, and the sequential media class, too. The moment I discovered that I could take the reins of my college education, everything changed for me.

I wrote my first full-length play, and I directed it soon after that. I created my own comic book, and I dove down an incredibly exciting rabbit hole that ended up at a Creative Writing minor.

By taking control of my own academic destiny, I saw more success than ever before. I followed that same pattern throughout grad school, and I learned some really cool facets of screenwriting & film theory just by asking for more.

Individualization Took Me Outside of Myself

Fast forward a few years past a diverse handful of paying gigs, and I found myself slap in the middle of an elementary-school special ed classroom. I got the gig because they were desperate & so was I. Though it was one of the most exhausting jobs I’ve ever had–and I’ve still got faint scars on my arms from the student meltdowns–it was by far one of the most fulfilling.

Though I knew I was making a big impact on these kids every day, the absolute bane of my teaching existence were the IEPs.

If that acronym doesn’t cause you to cringe, chances are you’ve never worked in special education. IEP stands for “Individualized Education Plan,” and it’s a legally required document for all public-school students with medical proof of special needs.

Typically, they’re long and filled with mind-numbing educator jargon. But months after beating my head against the screen when everyone else had gone to bed, it suddenly dawned on me: IEPs were the roadmaps of my students’ academic goals for that year. Convoluted wording aside, they were simply the screenplays for their journeys. Though I knew little of Educator-ese, I had been trained to know a thing or two about screenplays.

And so I learned to really appreciate individualized education plans for my students. Just as the independent studies were lifesavers for my young adult self, these IEPs could be the lifeline that kept me sane while I rubbed peroxide on the bite or claw marks of that day.

On Friday, I’ll talk more about how IEPs work the best. I’m now convinced that every child should have an IEP, whether mandated or not.

Your OWN Education Individualized

So here’s the takeaway part.

There’s a good chance you’re not a special educator, and most of you have already finished with college. Thanks for reading this far!

If you’re an adult and you’re done with school, now is exactly the time you’ll need to individualize your own education. Unless, of course, your dream is to show up to a cubicle and unquestioningly churn through your assignments for the rest of your life. If that’s what you were born to do, by all means, don’t worry about individualized education.

But if you do want something more for your life, it’s not just gonna fall in your lap. Promise.

If you have out-of-reach goals & dreams you don’t dare share with your friends & family, you must individualize your education. You have to create a specific individualized education plan & somehow find the courage to stick to it when doubt starts creeping in. It’s the only way to achieve the unthinkable.

I’ve been obsessing about this phenomenon for awhile now, and it’s caused me to stumble on something new I’d love to share with you:

The Living Heroically 5-Day Challenge

It’s a free week-long emailed series of videos & handouts that will give you a better idea of what I’m talking about when it comes to really taking the reins of your future success.

Click on the link above, join me on the challenge and share with your friends who might be complaining that their lives aren’t going as they had hoped they would.

Don’t settle for living out someone else’s story.

Don’t assume you’ll get where you want in life by following another person’s formula.

The secret to any success is all in individualized education. Attendees at Friday’s academic conference sessions will get some hints toward that secret.

The rest of you will just have to settle for an incredibly life-changing 5-Day Challenge.

Now, aren’t you glad you stuck around?

About the Author Mark Ezra Stokes

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