My son is a senior this year. He attends the high school where I work. My daughter came home today for a short visit, she attends Texas A & M University. They were having a conversation out admission deadlines and what his plan was for college. Unfortunately, I butted into the conversation and created undue anxiety and tension because my son had not scored so well on his ACT and SAT tests. I reminded him of this and then became an even worse mom by complaining that he didn’t study enough for those tests and…it got worse, and I am ashamed of my actions. I love my children dearly, and being an educator in the same school system that my children were a part of, did not make it easy for me to advocate for them. But now, I have to. I was afraid to speak up and let my concerns be known both as a parent and as a teacher. But now, after my summer of immersion in technology and Twitter, I feel empowered to tell this story…
My daughter is one who flourished in the system that public education has always put forth, and is in wide practice at the high school where my son attends and where I work as a special education teacher. My daughter is one who knows how to take notes, study, complete the worksheets and other assignments, and do well on tests. This is standard high school procedure: lecture, notes, worksheet, quiz, test...and then move on to the next topic/chapter/whatever else was deemed important by the department. She did so well with this traditional teaching format, she graduated in the top 10% of her class, which had about 340 students. In Texas, students who graduate in the top 10% of their class earn automatic admission to the public university of their choice.
Our family is an Aggie family, and no one in my family is a bigger fan than my son. His room is painted Aggie maroon and the walls are littered with Texas A&M paraphernalia. My son, who will go to college next year, will not earn automatic admission to Texas A&M. He will more than likely go to Blinn College, from which he can transfer into A&M to finish out his degree plan. My son won’t get automatic admission not because he isn’t as smart or as capable as my daughter, although the result of our discussion had him feeling that way (I feel like a horrible mom because of this.) He just learns differently. As a matter of fact his exact words were “I can’t learn like my sister can!”
He struggles in school because of the system: lecture, notes, worksheet, quiz, test…and then move on to the next important thing. This has plagued my son throughout his academic career. He is very smart. He knows how to do things on the computer that I would need to take a class on to learn. He does research every day, looking for things to buy–I had bookmarked pages on my computer that led to all the different kinds of trucks he wanted and all the different kinds of options and on and on. He pitched each idea with facts and with data he had acquired, he could back up his information with reviews about dealerships and the truck he was interested in. He did everything we needed to do so that we could buy him exactly what he wanted, even down to keeping within our budget.
Who can say no to that kind of information? This was real life research, not some contrived research question posed by some teacher with an agenda. Also, he didn’t need to fill out bibliography cards and do a written report. The kid chose to show what he knows by way of a very interesting and eye-catching movie. Where my daughter is very literal, my son is creative. My daughter has little common sense, but we love her. My son can make common sense decisions–snap, snap, snap. And they are good decisions.
He can’t learn like his sister can. He learns differently. He hates school. The only teacher he ever liked was his world history teacher. He says that coach interacted with his students. He talked to them. He told them stories. This coach was our Teacher of the Year at our school last year, and unfortunately, he left because his wife got a great job somewhere in the East.
The only teacher my son connected with during three years of high school left. He hated his other social studies teachers (he used to love social studies) he felt the same way about all of his other teachers as well. He hates school. As I was talking to him, begging his forgiveness, I talked to him about how sad it made me that he didn’t like school. I DO NOT BLAME HIM: lecture, notes, worksheet, quiz, test…
I promised him right there that I am going to make change come to our school. He isn’t the only one who learns differently. He has friends that learn like he does, and they feel stifled by the confinements of the lecture, notes—you get it, right? I will advocate for him. I will make it known that the way things are aren’t working for him. He matters, just like everyone else. How he learns matters. His teachers need to know this. I don’t have a master plan yet, but it will start with a conversation with our principal. I will explain to him as a mom, what my kid needs to be successful, and then I will explain to him that as a teacher, I have witnessed, well, NON-teaching, and I would like for that to change!
My son matters, my students matter!