"Just Like Everybody Else"

on Wednesday, September 24, 2014
    After my first post this week about my third grade teacher, I talked to my mom about my elementary school teachers.  I don't really remember much before third grade, but my mom told me some stories about the different types of teachers I had.

    (No, that is not me, but I'm sure my mom has a bunch of pictures of me similar to this one.)
    In Kindergarten, my teacher was Mrs. Friedrich.  I knew how to read and write long before I went into Kindergarten, so the regular assignments were boring and repetitive for me.  After a few days of school, she pulled me and my mom aside after class and opened up her special classroom closet and pulled out a book.  I don't remember exactly what she said, but basically she said that my learning level was above that of the rest of the class and I shouldn't do the regular homework assignments anymore.  She handed me a book, I don't remember what it was, but she said that reading that book was my homework for the night.  My mom told me yesterday that for the rest of the year she made me specific homework assignments to help with my mental development.

    We didn't talk about first grade at all, so I'm going to skip to second grade.  There were a lot of weird things that year.  I was in a first/second split class that consisted of like 20 first graders and I was one of seven second graders.  Because we were way outnumbered, my teacher spent a lot more time focusing on the first graders instead of us.  I don't really remember anything from that year of school.  My mom told me a story about when I started reading the American Girl books.  For those of you who don't know what the American Girl books are, they are historical fiction chapter books about girls in different historical settings in America.  They are aimed at 8 year old girls.  One girl is an escaped slave on the underground railroad, one is about a girl during WWII, there's a colonial girl during the Revolutionary War, but the series that I was reading took place in 1904.  My mom wanted to make sure I was understanding the historical context of the books, so we'd have conversions about what was happening at that time.  The books had a little blurb about the historical context in the back, which I read, so when my mom talked to me about the books, I understood everything.  My teacher insisted that I did not comprehend what was happening in those books.  She said there was no way I could understand those books, and she tried to prevent me from reading anything other than picture books.  My mom, who struggled to get my older sisters to read, let me read pretty much anything I wanted to because she knew I'd understand it, and because there was always a chance that if I didn't enjoy what I was reading then I would stop reading.  My teacher refused to maintain my advanced learning and insisted I was "just like everybody else".  She put me in a little box so she wouldn't have to do any extra work to deal with me, and then the year was over.  My mom said the next year she got cornered by my old teacher who insisted that the reason I did so well in school was because of all she did to help.
    In fourth grade, my teacher understood that I was struggling with math and with focusing in class, and instead of telling my mom that she needed to do something about it, she went straight to me and we came up with a solution.  I didn't understand math at the beginning of the year, and by the end of the year I was part of this math group that she had formed and I was doing more advanced homework than the majority of the class.
    So why am I talking about this?  Because I like to brag about how smart I am?  No, because I understand that I cannot learn on my own.  I have always relied heavily on a teacher's help in school.  Because I can't stand people who don't understand that children are all different, and that everyone learns differently.  I hate people who try to put everyone in little categories and boxes, and then don't know how to react when someone does something contrary to the box they were put in.  
    I guess as a writer I find it easier than most to understand people and their motivations because I spend all day thinking about why my characters do what they do.  It's easy for me to understand that everyone is different.
    I'm writing about this as a tribute to my fantastic teachers who shaped me right.  They understood that I had potential, but needed a little push.  My teachers were all very different and all taught differently.  The way they handled different situations taught me how to learn and grow.  Because I had some awesome teachers (and an awesome mom who spent thousands of dollars on books for me to read!) I am who I am today.  So thank you Mrs. Friedrich, Ms. Russell, and Mrs. Cobb for all your help in teaching me and helping me when I struggled.  


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