with education, and how people learn, can most likely be attributed
to my own struggles with education. I tended to be bright for my age,
but I never quite fit in with any education system. The nature of how
I learn was always a mystery to me. I was one of those children who
teachers either hated or loved. I was quite gregarious, which enchanted
some, while disgusting others. I started Kindergarten at the age of
four, since my birthday was late in the year. My teacher found me to
be overly curious, and too difficult to control, so she tried to hold
me back for being too "immature" to move on to the first grade.
My parents felt very strongly that I should continue on. I believe they
realized that repeating the same year again would only make me more
restless, so they took me to a school counselor for advice. After evaluating
me, and my situation, he simply said, "She's not a smaller apple,
she's an orange." This simple statement has become the motto of
my life. It helped me to realize throughout my education, that if I
was not always successful in some aspects of school, it was only because
I though differently than others. As a School Psychologist, I try to
help other children understand that learning differently is not bad.
Most of my teachers underestimated me in Elementary School, but I got
through with the encouragement and support of my family. I continued
to struggle in an education system that was not suited to my needs,
until I was finally placed in the GATE (Gifted And Talented Education)
program. It was only then that I truly began to shine. By high school,
my teachers realized that I was capable, but often felt that I was still
not reaching my potential. Some teachers thought I was lazy, some thought
that I was strange, either way I was not an average student. I had a
tendency to get very anxious when I really tried hard at something.
Since I could usually succeed without really trying, it was fairly easy
to breeze by with minimal effort. Unfortunately, I always knew I was
capable of more, but I couldn't figure out how to bring it out without
that dreaded anxiety.
By the time I reached College, it was no longer as easy to breeze by.
I was tested for learning disabilities, but my scores on most areas
were so high that the tester asked me why I even took the tests. He
said, "well, you got into Whitman, you can't have too much trouble."
This made me even more frustrated because I was clearly having problems,
and I was not meeting my potential. Even though most of my scores were
well above college graduate level, some of them were as low as Kindergarten
or 8th grade. The low scores were not frequent enough to be classified
as a learning disability, but they were clearly weaknesses that were
holding me back academically. As a professional, I have looked back
on my testing and, though none of my scores were below the average range,
there was a significant gap between my visual and auditory processing
skills. While my spatial skills were above average, my listening skills
were relatively weak. This made attending to lectures and technical
books very difficult for me. In my career, I try to help not only those
with obvious special needs, but also those who just need a better understanding
of what works for them educationally.
When I left Whitman, and went to SDSU, my performance went up for two
reasons. One reason was that SDSU was by far less rigorous than Whitman.
The other reason was that I began to really understand what worked for
me. My first psychology class there was a breeze, and I discovered that
it was something that seemed to come naturally for me. Even in my General
Education classes, I was studying more effectively.
My fascination with learning led me to pursue employment in various
educational settings that have continued to influence my approach to
education. Shortly before I became a school psychologist, I worked for
a special education school where all districts in San Diego County sent
students that were too challenging for the public school system. This
experience prepared me for working with and understanding children with
special needs by working one on one with some of the most intensive
kids. Despite the difficulties in working with this population, I became
even more inspired to find ways to help them learn. I felt even more
strongly that every child has something to offer, and it is an educator's
responsibility to help that child find it. The school also had strong
research based practices in positive behavior supports, and my training
there has given me a passion for PBS.
I have always valued individual differences in each person that I encounter,
and have often acted as a counselor to many of my friends. I am often
driven to support even those I don't know emotionally. Since how a person
thinks can affect him emotionally, understanding that thought process
can greatly increase his self-esteem. Those who learn differently often
have a low feeling of self worth because the system doesn't work for
them, and they don't have the resources to work with the system. Children
are especially vulnerable to this if they don't have the support and/or
understanding of their parents. Too often, well meaning parents put
pressure on their children, without acknowledging the possible roadblocks
to their success in school. I would like to help make resources available,
so that these children can also get the help and support they need.
Unfortunately, not everyone has someone to appreciate their differences
or support them in their challenges. Gifted students are often mislabeled
because they learn differently, and many other special needs students
are never able to reach their full potential because they are not given
a chance. I feel that every child should have the resources to get the
best education possible.
I am now
working in the Battle Ground School District in southwest Washington,
and have had the opportunity to use my training in all types of interventions.
I also feel strongly about sharing information with others if it would
be useful in any way, which is why I started this website.