What happens when you tell a student “you can’t”

So earlier today I was sitting in one of my classes and, under the weight of the stress I have about my upcoming Shakespeare midterm and lack of interest in what the teacher was talking about, I found my mind wandering else-where to this idea that I’ve been holding in my mind for almost three years now.  This idea has consumed my every day thoughts sense my freshmen year and my greatest wish is to one day be able to call it my great contribution to the world but I have a problem, for whatever reason I can’t seem to give myself the motivation to make any sort of attempt to pursue this goal that I have created.  Anyways, on my walk home from class in the freezing cold, I couldn’t help but feel a mixture of negative emotions as I began thinking about why I was wasting my time doing things that I had no interest in and not investing in my own happiness.  This has been going on for three years now and I am beginning to lose control and other parts of my life are becoming affected.  I got home to my roommates in the middle the middle of a heated discussion about their greatest fears and where they came from and even though I was in no mood to have any sort of discussion with any one, they somehow managed to incorporate me into the conversation.  Initially I told them that my greatest fear was lightening (I had a bad experience with storms when I was little) but as I listened to their discussion I all of a sudden realized what my greatest fear is why I have a mental block that won’t let me pursue my idea and, as sad as this is, it is something I learned from my education.

As I mentioned in my first blog, I am dyslexic and it has been haunting me ever sense the day that I realized that I, as the education system put it, was different in a negative way.  As most first grade students all across the country, a big part in my first grade classroom was spelling tests.  The teacher would give us a list of words, we would do an in class worksheet/ activity using them to practice spelling, and then the next class we would have roughly a ten question spelling test over the words.  The in class activity was a part that I never had a problem with, mainly because it was really easy to correct where you messed up in the spelling, and correct it on the next question.  However this did not reflect on the spelling tests and I don’t think I ever spelled more than three words right.  By the middle of the first grade I think I had heard the phrase “you failed” more often the phrase “good job,” therefore, when the school began to label students as struggling and “gifted” it was pretty obvious where I fell in that category.

The good friends that I made throughout the beginning of the year were labeled as gifted and during a special period of the day they would go to a special class for special children who were especially smart for their age with special computers and special games for them to enjoy their learning experience.  And as for me, I was sent to the underfunded resource program for struggling students in similar positions as myself with a crazy teacher who would talk to us like five years olds and make us play incredibly stimulating and unintellectual games that taught me nothing other than reinforce the fact that I was a failure and couldn’t handle the challenges of normal students.  I hated it, and on almost a monthly basis my mother would call the school to ask if I could just be put in a normal classroom.  The schools response: “he can’t be put in a normal class because he can’t spell at the level of a normal student his age.”  I was labeled as different from everyone in the school, my friends, my teachers, and even my parents began to believe it at one point.

So what do I fear most?  I fear rejection and through it I learned to fear failure.  This kind of system, labeling kids at a young age as gifted, average and sub-par, corrupts their young minds and for the rest of their lives they avoid taking chances because of what they were taught in grade school.  I could be wrong about my own lack of motivation and the generalizations I have just made but in my eyes this is the worst part about our education system today.   Feel free to disagree with me, but to tell you the truth I’m angry and I don’t really care.

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One thought on “What happens when you tell a student “you can’t”

  1. My brother was diagnosed with Autism when he was 6 years old. So although I never really experienced this sort of removal from school, I’ve seen firsthand how awful it is. I’m pretty sure that even now in high school my brother still struggles with feeling inadequate to the rest of the class even though he is an incredibly smart kid.

    So I agree with you 100%. I think that the worst thing you can do to a kid and separate them from the rest of the class. Like you said it makes them feel stupid. I think knowing and realizing that a kid has something like dyslexia is important, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t handle the work. They just will go about doing it differently.

    I’m curious. Maybe this is a stupid question but I’ll ask anyways. Is it because of your experiences/struggles in the school system that you want to be a teacher?

    -Anna B.

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