One fair hair is bent over, a crease down her forehead… she is playing to win. The King may have lost his body eons ago but his sacred feet are worth defending to the end of the game. I am proud of her logic, her concentration, her desire to beat the opposition, her ability to plan and out-maneuver with creative sidestepping. When she plays it is with the swift precise maneuvering of one who knows what she is doing and she knows that unless she is playing James she has probably already won the game just by showing up on time.
A darker head plays for the love of playing, she plays just to move pieces around the board and have them lined up two by two holding hands and skipping from square to square. Sure, a few may be taken from time to time but honestly, does it really matter if a bishop turns a corner once in a while? Who stated that right at the end, when the game is said and done, we HAVE to declare a winner and a looser, and can’t we all just dance? I am so proud of her giving heart and ability to find the fun of being, even during a game of war.
“Stop, that’s enough, no more, seriously? you have to be kidding me” You might be fooled into thinking that this sounds like a typical evening household routine under our cozy roof, but nope, this tirade is saved for really important occasions… and most recently reserved for the announcement made by our school that we might need to plan on an attendee at summer reading camp this year.
Every year, at the start of school, I book a meeting with my children’s teachers (because we are assured by the school system that we are partners in our children’s education) and take the time to let them know that dyslexia runs amok in our family. Not only does it run amok, by the way, but it leaps, twirls, giggles, runs, and causes creative merriment wherever it lands.
Stepping back and looking through our family history takes me to Granddad Bird – totally cool dude, intelligent, creative, inventor, musician, you name it he could make it or sing it or play it. Nana Bird was also as equally intelligent and creative, but apparently not so hot at getting letters down on paper. Oh she could write… she wrote reams and reams of letters but it was a laborious process.
Imagine then, they being told that their son is having difficulty reading, or is cheating at math because he only sees the answer in his head, or his spelling is phonetically fantastically brilliant (actually, that’s not a direct quote from the British school system there). Imagine, if you have been through the school system in the 50’s you do not question, but accept the teacher’s bewilderment at not being able to teach a child… and thus in turn accept the only ‘out’ offered… that your child is to blame and the only passive and reasonable hope left is to pray that your child can somehow find a living doing something and by the way, creativity did not a career make.
In the Eighties, dyslexia was becoming a recognized ‘issue’ by some schools (i.e. progressive forward thinking military schools). While I was laboriously chipping away at the system day by day, miss-spelt word by miss-spelt word, numerically inapt, they at least had come up with a name for ‘it’… and ‘it’ was recognized that some children had ‘it’. They didn’t really know what to do with ‘it’, ‘it’ was something we were to try harder at; ‘it’ could be improved if only we beat ‘it’ to death… only ‘it’ never stayed buried for long… ‘it’ pushed up more daisies than the entire plague was responsible for.
If my Father left school believing his intelligence was somehow lacking, I left school believing I was the ‘practical’ one in the family… somewhere as time was fluidly progressing, my parents had come to the belief that life was not about academic achievement, that they believed that I was an intelligent child and they had the forethought to talk to my teachers about ‘it’. However, teaching at this point was not a partnership; cozy chats were by invitation only, no guests, questions or suggestions allowed.
I would like to think that the education system has moved on… I have a need to believe that my children are benefiting from the years and years of toil and hand-me-down knowledge that teachers have picked up on. Dyslexia now not only has a name, but tutoring has become available and classroom accommodations wildly acceptable. Oh but wait… lets back up and take a good long look at that statement and make just one or two changes… tutoring has become available and classroom accommodations are wildly acceptable IF your child is behind grade level expectations. IF. IF your child is behind grade level expectations. IF. ‘IF’ and ‘IT’ two little words that apparently have control over the rest of your child’s educational experience.
In the last two weeks we have had a meeting with one daughter’s teacher who had emailed me because she was concerned that said child was writing math equations in mirror image on the board in front of her class and still transposing/writing letters backwards; had we ever looked into dyslexia before? I was told to ‘breath’ by the calming influence of my better half after texting him four little letters: WTF? (Correctly spelt and all in the right order I might add). And just yesterday we received a letter notifying us that summer school or a grade repeat was in the immediate future of daughter #2 because of her challenges with reading (breath came up quite often in that conversation also!).
Teaching is a partnership. A partnership by definition is a term meaning both parties are partners… equal partners. And it is time to embrace each child, and to accept that each has unique abilities, strengths and voices. Vicious testing and holding back to repeat a grade WILL NOT, and NEVER WILL be the answer to a nurturing learning environment if it does not pin points where help is needed. Every single child WILL NOT, and NEVER WILL be academically proficient to the states standard IF teachers do not accommodate and learn how to work within the frames that various ‘its” have given us to work within. A partnership where teachers are supposed to listen at the START of the school year when a parent voices three generational concerns would, I believe, be a good way to start this process.
Three generations, which we know of, have worked through the mists of dyslexia. Sometimes the mists have lifted; sometimes they have grown denser and foggier. I really and truly want to believe that with the wave of a magic wand life is just about to get easier for Emma and Maggie because dyslexia is a recognized ‘it’. However, realistically I think the problems are just about to kick in. It’s a shame to think that the education system may have ‘peeked’ in the 80’s… and are not only well over the hump of the mountain, but seemingly halfway down the other side. Apparently the ‘IFS’ quantify that struggling while you are above grade level is a laudable way of life, but not if you are under achieving. So, just to make sure I accurately understand this, Maggie might be just a little dyslexic, but will qualify for help more than Emma who may be struggling tremendously with full blown galloping doses… huh?
We have to stop, and really question what we and our teachers want for our children. We know that one size does not fit all; we are accepting that outward appearances are not a fit way to judge our fellow neighbors. Surely it is time to realize that judging what is ‘under the hood’ is also not the answer, but to accept each other for our strengths and abilities… for we all do have strengths and abilities, and ‘its’.