Friday, November 1, 2013

My personal experience with falling behind in the Public school system

This post is inspired by teacher friends, and a few parent friends. The first two parent friends that came to mind when I decided to write are both people I've met through the Hydrocephalus community. I'm writing this because of the Common core curriculum. I don't know much about it personally except from what I've seen from friend's posts and what I read about it online when preparing for this post. From what I understanding part of it is weekly tests trying to get kids on the same level. I'm sure there's a lot more to it but this is the part I'm going to focus on. I've provided some links at the bottom of this post for more information.

Most of my early years were focused on therapy for motor skills and speech problems. I started writing and reading at close to the normal time when other kids in my class was. I really hated writing but I had a few teachers and experiences that changed that. My first was my Third grade teacher, and also father of a childhood friend. I had a habit of writing in really big letters, which I've learned within the last couple years that might have to do with depth perception, but it was also something I was doing on purpose. I hated writing enough that I wanted to write as big as I could so I could fill up the space on the paper I needed to but with using minimal words. When I was in his class helped me stop the habit, even if it really frustrated with him about it at the time. It was also the same teacher who started to actually get me into writing with a few specific writing problems that helped me discover that I could really enjoy writing if I was inspired to be creative. At some point between that point and Junior high I also learned to express my emotion into writing, which mostly ended up being anger and also it wasn't something I would write directly about it. I would hide it but use it in certain characters or their actions. What inspired me even more was being limited to a specific subject for research papers in Junior high. I decided early on in Junior high to really think outside the box the next time I was able to pick out my subject, and write about something I could really get into. It resulted in excelling in papers, and usually getting close to the page limit. If I remember right the written part of my Senior project ended up being the page limit at 12 or 13 pages.

I was still one of the last to finish a writing project in the 5th grade though. I don't remember what it was about but the teacher made the students who didn't finish on time stand outside during recess try to finish. We were expected to finish but the only things we were able to use to write on was the ground or brick wall. The brick wall would cause us to poke holes in our paper and the cement ground didn't help much either. We also had the distraction of the other kids playing. Obviously none of us finished so we had to stay after school until we did. It wasn't the first time I had to stay after school for similar reasons, but usually it would be for something one on one. It was the first time and one of few times that I was embarrassed by a teacher over my learning disability. The other time had more to do with self-image and that was when I was sent to a Elementary school Track and field event and finding out when I was called out to the track for it that I was putting into a race with a bunch of kids with a lot more severe physical and mainly intellectual disabilities than mine. If either me or my parents would have been told about what was going to happen, I would have definitely bailed. I don't want to offend anyone by mentioning this, but I want to and wanted to be associated to be as "normal" as possible.

When I was being held after class or being tutored in some way it was usually because I had a really hard time understanding something, for example in the Fourth grade when I was learning how to play the viola and the multiplication table. It's something that worked time after time, and usually if it didn't happen I would be quick to fail. Thankfully now that I'm working it's something that I end up dealing with a lot less because almost every job I've had included one on one training or something that I could figure out on my own.

I learned pretty early on that I had a really difficult time with memory, mostly with short term and working memory. It started out with me always being the last to remember a weekly bible verse in a Christian based type boy scout group in the First and Second grades. The really big blow came in the Sixth grade when after focusing mainly on catching up using therapies in Elementary school I started a translation into several separate classes, a lot more homework and tests. I ended up doing very little homework and failing my tests until my Individualized Education Program meeting a couple months into the school year. I was failing all my core classes already. I had to put a lot of hard work into that year and my learning disability really started to show. The major problems I had off the top of my head was not being able to remember or at least express what I had just read right after I read it, understanding homework, and being able to store enough in my working memory to be able to pass a test the following day. I spent a lot of time doing homework that wasn't supposed to take that long to complete, and really struggled to pass tests. For most of that year even if I was working as hard as I way (along with my Dad that was helping me) I was only getting the average grade of a C. It was really discouraging to know that my friends were getting higher grades and seemed to have to work a lot less for it. I ended up just barely getting by during the rest of Junior high and failing a lot of classes during my first couple years of High school, which ended up causing me not to be able to catch up fast enough to graduate with my class. I wanted to drop out the entire time but I knew my parents wouldn't give me permission and by the time I turned 18 I was only half a credit from graduating so it would have been really foolish not to go for it.

Reading and hearing about Common core makes think about how much I struggled. I don't know what I would have done with myself if I would have had to start to have to remember information so early on for tests on a regular. Then no matter how hard I tried to end up falling behind on those tests and fall behind in that way behind peers. I honestly feel bad for kids with learning disabilities who have to deal with that blow right away, without at least in a way enjoying their first few years of school first.

If you're curious to learn more about my experiences in school I have all of my posts labeled, so those will send you to similar posts. Thanks for reading, while I hope that you may have learned something new about me, I especially hope that you've learned something about yourself or someone that you love and care about. <--Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation, including state chapters in 35 states currently and the Washington D.C area. The list of State chapters can be found if you scroll down the page some in the "contact us" section.

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