Saturday, September 21, 2013

Great teachers

During high school I was having to change the way I approached school- school wasn't for the grades, spending time with friends, or wasting my time. I realized that since I was not graduating, I should take classes where I would truly LEARN!!!! I know, a big step for humanity..... I took classes that I could learn in, and if I wasn't learning, I didn't stay. Like the biology class example, I spent a quarter in a biology class where I wasn't learning anything, so I transferred to a biology class where I could and would learn. I have siblings older than me, so I knew about some of the teachers reputations from them and their experiences. Overall, it served me well to ask questions like "did you learn anything in the class?", "would you take another class from the teacher?" and "was there a lot of busywork involved?" This helped me get the teachers who taught well, so that I could get the most out of my time in classes.

As a result of my learning attitude, I was taking AP (college credit) classes from good teachers. I took AP Biology from Mr. H and AP American History from Mr. W. I asked questions, made it to class every day that I could get out of bed, and started studying for the big tests months ahead. I have thought about what made these teachers so memorable to me, and why I was so successful in learning in their classes. I think that they are truly gifted teachers who love to teach, and it shows. I was also able to ask any question and they wouldn't get offended or defensive- they would welcome the questions I had. These teachers also knew that they had to teach things that weren't part of their curriculum (writing essays) to make sure that everyone could succeed. These teachers gave me a chance to prove myself, rather than seeing the disability guidelines that my Mom gave out and not trying.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reaching for sanity

September 10, 2013

It was a wonderful feeling to have Maddy diagnosed, and now we could set things up so she could succeed at school. This was a team effort. Maddy and I talked at length, exploring when she usually felt the best, how many classes she thought she could handle, etc.  We also talked about brain fog, her current learning style and difficulties, and made a plan. We met with Dr F and he signed a paper that said she could take no more than 4 classes. We took that to the high school, and met with a counselor and explained her health difficulties and what we were trying to do.

Mrs M was a wonderful counselor. When she grasped that Maddy would not come close to getting the credits she needed for graduation, she just said, "What classes would you like to take?" and was very accommodating. We got Maddy scheduled for morning classes, and then set a meeting to discuss the 504 disability, which puts the teachers and staff on alert that this student has some special needs. I took the learning ideas that Maddy and I had brainstormed about, and made a handout for the teachers, also adding a brief explanation of chronic fatigue syndrome and the common difficulties with it. I kept it to a page, not wanting to scare anyone off. Yet I hoped that having some information would help teachers to be a bit more patient with her.

I didn't have Maddy come to the meeting, but there were her teachers, Mrs. M and the vice principal.  I gave my brief explanation and there weren't any questions. Perhaps most felt that they already had enough to deal with without someone that needed more time or attention. But it gave Maddy some protection in regards to her schooling, and I was glad I did what I did.

So we launched into 10th grade. Maddy did reasonably well on her morning schedule, and was able to come home and nap, then do homework. She made a point of doing ALL the work, plus any extra credit, in order to build up credit with each teacher. She was acutely aware that she could have a downturn at any time, which would mean missing school, and she wanted to prove that she was a serious student and have teachers cut her some slack if she did miss.  She kept up this method during high school and through college, and it served her well.

About the end of the first quarter, Maddy wanted to transfer out of her biology class. She wasn't being challenged, and felt she was wasting her time. So back we went to Mrs. M, and who commented that Maddy might like one of the other biology teachers. The new biology teacher, Mr. H, was supurb! A master teacher! Maddy was delighted, in spite of her having to catch up on a whole quarters work in order to have the background she needed in that class. She worked her tail off and enjoyed it very much. And to make things even better, Mr. H invited her to take his AP Biology classs the next year. That was a distinct honor, as there was limited space in his classes.

It was interesting that Mr. H quickly became very 'tuned in' to Maddy and her learning difficulties. He had not been in the 504 meeting at the beginning of the year, but when Maddy didn't understand something, she would ask him to explain it again, and he would do so, over and over. He didn't get impatient, and he was able to explain in varied ways, in an attempt to help her understand. He had the mindset that if one student said they didn't get it, then there were likely others who didn't either. He made his class and the learning process a safe and enjoyable experience. What a blessing for Maddy. It really gave her confidence that she could succeed in spite of the limitations she was dealing with.