I am in the fourth grade in your school. Most of the time school is not a happy place for me. I have struggled since before kindergarten with, well, just learning. I was held back in kindergarten and again in the third grade. I am bright they say. Why can’t I learn like the other kids in my class?
I have so many creative thoughts in my brain, but when I am asked to write a sentence or a story, my brain, hand and paper don’t seem to connect. Copying form the board is a disaster.
It is time for math. The teacher calls up four students to the board and I am one of them. She gives us a column of numbers to add. We write the numbers as she calls them out, but somewhere in the ‘calling out’ of the numbers, I miss out and have to start over again. I have turned around some numbers and left out a few. Finally, okay, get ready, go! In a flash, my classmates have the answer. I am still puzzling…. pictures of what is a 9 or a 7. It does not compute. I can’t use my fingers. I sweat and draw a blank. The whole process of math, particularly word problems, is a nightmare. Why?
Spelling? Well I hear the word, but what I write down is something else. The question: “Didn’t you study your spelling?” I would answer yes. “Then, what is this on your paper?” I look at the floor. My confidence goes down to my shoes. Now you know why I am not invited to spelling or math teams!!
Books? I love books when they are read to me. I remember all the scenes. I remember some that my classmates do not. I can answer verbal questions, details that even the best students do not recall. However, when given a book I stumble over the words and get embarrassed once again. My heart sinks to my shoes, my confidence gone.
In class I dream through the ‘teaching’. What my teacher is saying and what I am hearing and visioning are two different things. I receive no pictures to my brain from words, either verbal or in print. If I am suddenly asked a question, I again draw a blank. I may know the answer, but the information will not surface from my brain.
My parents and teachers say “Why is it so difficult for you?” Good question. I would like to know that too! I am one of those students who doesn’t test well. The scores of my ‘academic’ performance are defeating. My self-confidence continues to drop. My scores do not improve and ‘they say’ I am below grade level, whatever that means. I am taken out of class and ‘tutored’ daily in reading and math. I forget what I have learned on the way back to my class! They say I am in the fourth grade, but my reading and math levels are second grade. A puzzlement! My fourth grade textbooks in history and science are written for the fourth grade level and above.
What am I to do? I carry all of these books home for homework assignments, and my parents and I struggle through them for hours. Yet, they say, I am bright. Well evidently, I must learn differently from others. If this is true, then don’t you think it would make sense for me to be taught differently? My brain seems to be the pathway solution.
I am talented. I love music, art, drama and sports. I do have so many dreams. However, at this point all that I can think about is dropping out of school. I am discouraged and don’t think I can make it much farther.
It may be more than the educational system can at this point give to students like me. However, there is great promise in my future. If the educational system can give me the gift of time, I can take my place with courage and my head held high.
I am in your family, your schools (public and private) and home school.
Do you know me?
This is a portrait of a child who learns differently in an educational system that fails to teach to the difference.
Rev. Dr. Joan Biles, Ph.D.
Director and CEO, Eagle’s Nest Center for Children Who Learn Differently
2241 Buckley Trail
Snellville, GA 30078