Just one of THOSE days

Photo by H. McPherson

A Reflection of being a Masters degree student teacher with attention/behavioral and learning difficulties.

Have you ever thought about how grad students with learning difficulties manage to successfully navigate grad school?  Have you ever wondered how many grad students have attention/behavioral and learning difficulties?  It is a topic that never crossed my mind, until I had the opportunity to work with a Masters student with attention/behavioral and learning difficulties.  I was the cooperating teacher, RB was my student teacher.  The following is RB’s story:

It was a Monday morning; I had not slept more than three hours, I was tired! I was sure of one thing as I waited for the bus, I was ready but not as ready as I could have been. My lesson plans where set out, my power points made, with the revision questions for the chemistry test clear. I also had my prairie-de-resistances a really “cool” demonstration that would end up with shaving foam being shoot across the classroom.

Before I get into this I guess I should explain a little about who and what I am. I have desied to become a teacher after having a carrier as an engineer. After school I had NO attention of being one for a number of reasons. The first being I had no love for an education system I felt like I had battled against and smashed my head repeatedly against until I had finally graduated with a civil engineering degree. I was at that point in my life whole heartedly uninterested in a system that in my opinion had failed me, I was angry to the point of tears and furious at the injustice of those running the system. Little did I know that my true battle with dyslexia was only just about to being.

Now on this particular day I had woken up late and had to rush out of the house of course I did return to the house after having closed the door to grab the essentials for my very cool shaving form experiment. I was exited and mine experiment as the we before I had show the Chem class a experiment that made a tea bag fly. Which had worked really well as a starting point that lead into class room discussion about the gas laws. As the chemistry class trouped into the classroom I was not ready for them my question paper I clearfull written out with worked answers to go along with my notes had been put down somewhere. I wish I could say bye someone else but that would be a lie its was by me. I actually found the at the end of the day. There appeared that little goblin on my shoulder “you don’t know what your doing and there all going to know.”

It was the trip home. I sat in the car, furious, not only with myself but with the students also, how dare they act like that even if it was my fault. There I was sitting in the car and for the first time I can see/tell my CT is really disappointed with me it was just one little mistake but many big mistakes. I spoke about how angry I was and we talked about the day and those calamity of event that had made the day into what it was. In my mind there were three key points in this conversation, the first question was early and was along the lines of what are you going to do about today because you have 4 or 5 weeks left? I hope answer as someone would expect, “well I am not going to let it happen again because I am furious, I not sure if my reassured her, but she excepted my answer for what it was. The next day I set the rules down once again to the classes and explain that I felt that my classroom which I freely admit is on the edge of caose was never going to enter caoso again that I think I did actually regain her trust. Then there was the question of is it to do with your dyslexia. My answer as always to this question was I am not sure I didn’t think so but, I then told the story about the student Doe Jane and her offering me her tablets [the student offered RB concerta, meds for ADHD– she recognized a need and was trying to help!]. Then my CT laught I knew at that point everything was going to be ok, it was after this she told me I should write this paper so I have. What I have not told her or really told anyone, that I actually new everything would be ok because they the student and my CT had not found out the true. That the goblin that sits on my sholder whispering into my ear, you’re an idoit, you can’t do that, you are going to fail, fail, fail. No your not right You cant be right”. Had not been found, that fact that even me a person how has achieved academically more than many people could even hope for, still thinks of myself as the child at the end of elementary school unable to read a sentence as simple as “Leaves grow on trees.” That the walls I have carefully built around me to hide the “studip” that is at my core. It is this goblin, this stupid core that has driven me to be a teacher for many reasons. The first being that I know that the goblin is lying, I mean it I know he is wrong, but he well at least I think it is sometime he looks remarkable like the face of those teachers I have had over the year who pretend to understand and have those eyes that scream I don’t believe you. 

I will also point out at I don’t make mistakes very often will often writing out everything I plan to say in a lesson and when I do this effectively my lesson run much smoother. I don’t know how dyslexia effects me as a teacher. Was it dyslexia and a little ADHD that made this day leaving me angry and frustrated? Or was it over-confidence, my fixation on my “cool” activity, lack of preparation and my panick when the bell went and I was not ready. Is this something anyone could have happened to or was it my learning difficulties that cause the problem? The most important thing is that I want to prove myself to the students, I what them to believe that I am there to help them, that I am there to help them learn that I am trying to give them the best classroom experience where learning takes place as I can. For me this desire comes from dyslexia. Well what about that goblin, well I can never let you see the goblin the voice of studipidy at my core placed there by a school system them cares nothing for the emotional effects of learning difficulties. Well that little goblin is why I well never think I a good enough why I will always be looking to improve regardless of …. well anything because just like all those with learning difficulties I will never believe I am good enough. I hope this sort of explains that the thing people worry about when they here a student is dyslexic is the wrong.

So that is RB’s story of a day.  Not the best day, but a day of growth, anger, frustration, and ultimately humor and success. I have worked with numerous student teachers over the years.  None were more talented in the classroom than RB.  I found this story heartbreaking – how many young people with disabilities don’t make it?  RB’s story is one of success, founded on grit, determination, and the gift of teaching.  My students will all tell you that they were phenomenally lucky to have had RB as a student teacher.  RB helped students complete high level science fair projects, work on a robotics competitions, prepare them for December exams, inspite of his  less than empathetic experience in grade school. And RB can now add a Master’s degree to an impressive list of credentials.  Bravo!

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