As I walked through the door of that one-room schoolhouse and greeted my teacher, I was all smiles. I was so excited for this new experience. I met my very first “best-friend” that day, her name was Jennifer. Jennifer and I were the only two students in our grade level. I don’t know if that’s how it started, this competition thing or this being compared to others thing, but start it did. In all school-related activities it seemed that Jennifer was slightly better. Her handwriting was slightly better, so she got to move to the advanced cursive handwriting first. As I think back about this now, I remember that I had a terrible time concentrating on what the teacher was saying. I would tap my foot incessantly on the floor and chew the erasers off my pencils. I now tell people, that in my day, if they had diagnosed ADHD, I could have been the poster child. I sat on my feet and would switch legs repeatedly. I was ultimately a student that would drive me, as a teacher, crazy!
At the end of fourth grade, my parents transferred me to a Catholic School in a nearby town. I went from having two people in my grade to a class of about sixteen students. It was at this time, that we learned that I was behind in Math. Apparently, I didn’t know my multiplication facts near as well as EVERYONE else in my fifth grade class. Luckily, I had an amazing teacher who made time after school to tutor me, however, I was still comparing myself to everyone else.
I felt the constant comparison whether by others or myself throughout much of my high school career. I tried harder, but it didn’t ever seem it was good enough. Spanish was my nemesis in high school. The teacher relied on rout memorization to learn the language. This was not one of my strengths. I studied and studied, but to no avail, finally after a quarter, I dropped the class, determined that, it was something I couldn’t learn.
Throughout high school, I felt “less-than” when it came to learning. I finished high school with an average GPA. I went on to the University. I was determined after a challenging first semester to become a better student. I stayed home on weekends and studied. I found places with white-noise so I could focus on what I was reading and studying. It paid off! I was finally going to be ABOVE average! I finished my undergraduate degree with an acceptable GPA (it would have been better, if I could have redone that first semester!).
My experience in the education system was not horrible, nor was it stellar. I struggled with things many thought were easy. There was some ridicule, although, not that much, but in my heart, I always knew that I was capable of more. I remember two teachers who made me feel like I was capable of more, only two. One was a quiet elementary teacher who used her own time to tutor me in multiplication, the other a hard-nosed high school English teacher who held me to a higher standard. I would not be where I am today without both of these outstanding (in their own way) teachers!
So now, as a teacher, I can empathize with those students who struggle. I can push them to do better than they every imagined they could and that is my goal. I want all of my students to be better than they ever imagined possible! I don’t want my students to be reluctant learners!