Reading and writing have never come easily to me. No really, M.O.L., the lawyer, who reads and writes for a living, struggles with the written word. Most people who know me personally find this statement funny. I mean, laugh out loud funny. I mentioned this weakness to both the Mad Scientist and the Editor this week and both of them laughed and not in a mean way, but they just couldn't imagine it. All of these feelings have raised to the surface this week with the TRex kindergarten meltdown.
My first grade teacher was highly inadequate. I don't say this lightly, but it is true. She was not a good teacher. In fact, I had this same teacher again when I was old enough to properly judge her ability and smart enough to recognize incompetence. My first grade teacher also taught my french class in 8th grade because the district had wised-up and stopped messing with the education of small children. At the time, I might have pitied her incompetence, lack of control, and blatant inadequacies, if all of those things hadn't made me realize WHY I felt stupid for my entire life. I did not properly learn how to read in the first grade as a consequence of inadequate teaching, although I didn't know that at the time.
I struggled with reading and I couldn't spell at all. In second grade, I was placed in remedial reading classes, which I continued in until third grade. In third grade, I had one of the best teachers ever and our class totally concentrated on reading all of the time and I finally caught up to where I was supposed to be, yet the trauma from being in remedial classes and not knowing how to read and write was hard on me. I remember the beginning of third grade clearly. The Editor was starting first grade and her reading abilities were tested to be at the sixth grade reading level. Me, at the beginning of third grade, two years older, and I was at the second grade reading level. I felt STUPID.
In the fourth grade, I underwent testing. I didn't know what for at the time, but I do remember one question "how many days are in a year?" I answered 305. I knew it was wrong and I also knew that whatever they were testing for, I had failed. Turns out the testing was for the gifted program and I was placed in it. Everything changed after that. Being told I was smart changed my outlook and I began to have confidence and started to excel. I still felt inadequate in reading, writing, and spelling, but I faked it because the school thought I was smart. It was at this time though that I realized I excelled in mathematics.
I continued through the rest of my primary and secondary education at the top of my class, excelling. I graduated number 2 in my class from high school. I won awards for everything and I was in all of the advanced classes for english by high school. Math was still my strongest point and I still felt my abilities in the written word were substandard. It was an advanced placement government class in high school that formed my love for the law. I didn't know if that was a feasible option though because I still didn't feel strong enough in my abilities with the written word.
I went to college, was placed in the advanced english program, and ended up with a degree in mathematics. I always planned to go to law school after college after the government class. I felt my love for the law in the core of my being. The law was me, totally and completely. My love for the law over-powered my fears of reading and writing, but they still persist.
After three years of law school and eight years of practice as an attorney, I am confident in my ability to read cases and write briefs, memos, letters, etc, yet I still feel I could do better. I know I read much slower than many people. I know I misspell words frequently (as any regular readers of this blog know). It makes me very self-conscience.
I don't want my children to feel the same sort of inadequacies. I want them to be confident in their abilities. While I know I can't protect them and there will be things that they struggle with, I also know there are some things that can be prevented. That is one of the main reasons I melted down over TRex's progress at school and being told he would need to be placed in remedial classes even though he is a smart kid. He wasn't drilled enough or taught enough at home, so he would be behind the rest of the kids from the beginning. That is not appropriate and is my failing, no matter the reasoning. I don't want to set him up to fail, so we are going to be working with him harder, preparing for kindergarten. If he's not ready, I won't send him.