My son, Hunter, is incredibly smart. I’m not saying that because I’m his mom, I’m saying that because he went into Kindergarten reading at a second grade reading level.
He has always been ahead of his class and does reading and math in one to two grades higher than his. I would love to take credit for his genius, but realistically it’s all him. The kid has earned “A’s” in all his classes since he started school, and honestly he never really had to “try”, that is until Spring of this year. I recently got a call from his teacher to come in and talk to her that same day. I was nervous, anxious, and all sorts of worried because I didn’t know what was going on. Upon my arrival, Hunter couldn’t even look me in the face. My initial response was “Holy cow! My kid got in trouble!” Which if you knew Hunter, you would know he has never been in trouble in any kind of way his entire life, and he is 11. I sit at the table across from his teacher and ask what’s wrong? Is everything okay?
His teacher, the amazing Mrs. Church, says, “Hunter do you want to tell her or do you want me to?” There was about a 2 second pause that seemed like 5 minutes, and he says “You can.” All I could think was “What is going on? What did he do?” His teacher, with a very loving tone says, “Hunter’s starting to struggle with math a little bit and he is feeling discouraged.” Here I am thinking my kid sent someone to the hospital in an intense game of Dodgeball, and really the only concern is he is struggling a bit with math. I looked at Hunter and before I could respond he was in tears. I give him a hug and ask “Why are you so upset? It’s going to be fine.”
Hunter looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “I’m supposed to just get it and I don’t.” My heart sank. For the first time in his life, math didn’t come easy to him. He even asked to go back to his 5th grade level of math so he didn’t have to struggle. I looked at him and said, “Hunter, you’re 11 years old. You’re not supposed to just ‘get it.’ If you did, there would be no need for a teacher. There are all sorts of options, but losing progress and giving up certainly isn’t one of them.” He looked at me and said, “You don’t struggle.” Are you kidding me? I struggle ALL the time! I am so bad at Geography if it doesn’t border California I have no idea where it is! Seriously, is Missouri by Florida? I have no idea! I struggle all the time, and I definitely am not someone who can just read a description and recreate the Mona Lisa. I remembered a quote, and wanted to share it with him, so I asked, “Hunter, do you know who Benjamin Franklin is?” Hunter responded, “Yeah he discovered electricity.” Then I realized I shouldn’t have asked that question because I thought Thomas Edison did that, but I digress.
“Mr. Franklin once said ‘tell me and I will forget, teach me and I learn, involve me and I will remember.”
We decided to try another approach. Hunter has always just been able to read a description and understand the process and equation. But, now that wasn’t enough. He started seeing a Math tutor for 30 minutes after school and having him explain the processes verbally. Hunter was starting to understand better, feel better, and do better in math. It wasn’t that Hunter couldn’t do it because he obviously could and did, he just needed the information in a different way.
We don’t all learn the same way, and we aren’t supposed to either. There is no “right way” to learn, all that matters is that you are learning. While some can read and understand, others need to hear the information to retain, while others, myself included, need see a demonstration to understand.
Take for instance, Justin Romano. Justin AKA “JJ” is a pretty awesome ILS client here in Siskiyou. He is always the first to help out – whether other clients are moving, or need help cleaning, anything you name it and JJ is there. JJ has a few dreams, and one of which was to get his driver’s license. So, he studied and took the written exam. He didn’t pass. Notice, I didn’t say he failed because not passing showed JJ were he was at so he definitely didn’t fail. Well, JJ tried twice more, and didn’t pass either time. What was wrong? JJ knew the information. When David, his Life Coach, asked him the questions he gave the correct answer, so where was the barrier? Then one day just like Thomas Edison (I think) back in the day, the lightbulb went off. The nature of JJ’s disability is that he struggles to read for comprehension, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know the information. It just means we needed a different approach. David helped JJ to discover that the exam can be read to him in Mount Shasta.
May 9, 2016, JJ took the trek to Mount Shasta DMV and as he waited he got really nervous. What if this didn’t work? After some reassurance from David, he took the exam, and like we all knew would happen, he passed!! JJ was and is fully capable of learning, and it was never JJ that needed to adjust. What did need to adjust was the approach of how the information got to him. So, if you aren’t “getting it” and are struggling to pass that vital test, just remember, you don’t have to learn the way anyone else does. Try a different approach and watch the possibilities of success become endless.