Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lament of the Past

I know I am intelligent.
I am smart. Maybe not very worldly. Or maybe not super street smart. And sometimes I’m naïve in believing the greater good in most people…

Or maybe my self-perception is totally an completely off. I’m not sure. The one thing I do know is 1) I am smart and 2) I test like a moron.

I don’t know what it is. It’s been this way since I could remember. Ever since my earliest memory in school I always tested terribly. It really bothered me, but I was super embarrassed about it because it seemed like it was only me who suffered from this “issue”. No one else made the teacher sigh and huff in frustration as she passed back quizzes and tests. No one else had teachers throw their hands up in frustration when they explained things to me one way and I still didn’t understand it.

It made me ashamed.

So I shut up about it. Because even though I tested badly… I still went on to the next grade. Even though I grasped some concepts but not others, as long as I attempted to write answers or guess at my multiple-choice questions, it seemed to be good enough. I know now that somewhere along the way (I estimate around 3rd grade) something went wrong with how the public school system taught certain subjects.

I excelled in reading and writing – but then again, I was reading from a young age and writing as soon as I knew how to string words together. It was a personal passion. And I remember enjoying adding and subtracting as it made sense, was neat and pretty the way you would set it up all aligned…

Then fractions and multiplications came along and somewhere it just didn’t “click.”

I know this because as a soon-to-be 25 year old, I sat in my sister’s 3rd grade classroom and watched 8 and 9 year olds fire off multiplication tables that my brain literally blanked and fizzled out on. I felt such embarrassment, hurt, and anger as I held up cards with what was probably considered simple multiplication and had these kids answer them with a swiftness that put me to shame. I looked at my sister with wonderment and longing. If only I had had her as my teacher. Perhaps I would have been able to do these tables as quickly as her kids in her classroom.

I asked her about it by complimenting them on their multiplication and division skills. She told me she felt most schools didn’t put enough emphasis on learning these basics of math – which is why so many children struggle later on in life. She said the same with reading – by having such strict regiments and making reading an unpleasant, tedious task – children are disinterested. She encourages the passion of reading by letting the children (gasp!) choose what to read. Be it a comic, a novel, or a picture book, “If they’re reading, that’s the most important part.”
If only all our teachers could have that attitude.

Though I don’t mean to say it is all the teachers. My sister is no longer a teacher due to the way the school administration and the school systems forces teachers into teaching in a manner that is inefficient to the students. My sister had kids that loved to read and loved their multiplication tables because she didn’t follow the schools “pre-plan” on how to teach them. By getting to know her kids and paying attention to how they learned, she was able to adjust her lesson plans accordingly.

And when the school would send that “official” to observe to make sure the students were learning the way THEY wanted them to learn, she’d have to put on that show for them. But as soon as they left, things would go back to normal… and the kids would actually learn something.

I can’t say that any individual teacher is at fault for my poor skills that are biting me in the ass as I prepare for a professional career that looks only at test scores. It may not be one teacher’s fault, it may be the system, or maybe a combination of a bad system and few impatient, at-loss teachers. Thrown up hands and sighs of frustration when the way you teach it just doesn’t get through to a young child? Well I know that was a poor choice… but I remember teachers who genuinely tried as best they could with 29 other students needing just as much (maybe more) one on one attention as I needed.

It’s been haunting my thoughts ever since I started going back to school. I dream of being a doctor. And as I get back a test from every class, my heart grows heavier and heavier. If you sat down and discussed the subject with me, I could explain to you exactly what we were tested on fine. But when it’s looking at me from paper, my mind seems to freeze and jumble up. And I write wrong answers or wrong processes, and its only regret marred with red ink and a disappointing grade.

I know I’m smart. I’m just not the smart the way the school systems grade me on.

And in the end, that might be the only thing that matters.

1 comment:

  1. maybe something here will help. http://www.studygs.net/

    try studying the subject your failing everynight for 2 hours. I bet you'll see a difference. Go back over what you don't understand, even if you don't like the teacher, go to her for help, maybe she'll be willing to see you office hours? I heard many teachers say at Washtenaw, if only students would have contacted me, they would have not failed, I could have helped them one on one. If you can't pass tests with A's after studying the subject for 14 hours a week, then maybe its pychological and you need to think about the fact that you are capable when you give it 130%. You can do this, just study it all the time. Don't think about anything else but this subject for the rest of the semester. Don't make excuses for yourself, because that's the beginning of failure. You tested crummy in public schools, okay, you are a new person today. Everyday you can recreate yourself and your attitude. Don't rely on 'I will fail that test'. Math and Chemistry have one correct answer, it isn't a class you can BS through like history and english. So you have to learn what it takes, to get that one right answer. And if what you are doing now isn't working...you need to change it. Find more resources, study more hours, go to teacher, find another tutor, get another book.
    That includes NOT doing stuff that interferes with your study habits.
    This isn't an art degree where you can hurry up at the end of a semester, create some art on canvas and get an A. This is hard hard hard stuff that teaches you something in itself, it teaches you discipline. Doctors need to know how to get through problems in many ways. Their brains need to have incredible knowledge to treat patients and thousands of diseases. This is preparing you for that place. If you use the excuse now, that I tested like crap as a kid, what are you going to tell patients when you can't figure out what is wrong with them?

    You have to put your personal habits aside, whatever is keeping you from diving into that Chemistry or math book all night, and don't stop.
    Don't stop, and don't tell yourself it's too hard, that is self defeatist, and think how good it's going to feel that you sacrificed to get an A in this class.
    Study habits
    Follow through
    no excuses

    Do it!