My life as a learner was a little bit different from ‘normal’. When I was in 3rd grade, I almost got held back. From a perspective, it looked like I was struggling with school—a special needs student. I was behind on my work, I didn’t understand the material like the rest of the class did, I was intelligently behind for a 3rd grader. Turns out, I had a hearing deficiency called Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). When the heater would go on, students talking in the back of the class, or someone beside me tapping their pencil, I would lose concentration from what I was supposed to be learning.
Being diagnosed with this, I had a constant struggle understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and discriminating sound. Leading up to difficulty in spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom. I went to Billings, MT to have surgery on my ears to hold tubes. This was a device to help increase my attention span for a longer time. I had to wear ear plugs when I went swimming so the water wouldn’t carry them out.
Beside the surgery, I was constantly in pain. I would get 2-3 ear infections a month prior to the surgery. By the time one ear infection healed, another would come. So, I was constantly sick. This was extremely hard on me, I thought I was stupid. When we would have tests, assignments, or anything else that required my undivided attention, a para would take me into another room. Having an IEP, I felt different, I just wanted to stay in my classroom with all my friends. I felt as though I was getting punished for being slow. Every couple of years, they would drive me to another school to professionally test me to see if I was progressing. It would take half a school day, and I would come back to school to all my classmates asking me questions. I felt so different and it took me a very long time to discover that I wasn’t stupid, I just had a dilemma. I was in 7th grade by the time the tubes fell out of my ears. I’ve only had 2 ear infections since then, but with the scar tissue from the surgery the ear infections are very severe and send me to the E.R. I still struggle with this disorder, but it’s doable. Classwork and instructions are still a struggle and probably always will be, but I’ve learned to work with it.
My struggle subject has always been math. Equations and numbers have always above me; I was taking junior math my senior year of high school. In college I failed my 1st math class and had to take it over, making it more frustrating than the 1st time. In high school, I always favored art class. Drawing and painting were my strong suits. I had a pastel-based drawing go to state art for Wyoming; it did not place, but it was a huge compliment for one of my pieces to be criticized by judges from all over Wyoming. Since it went to state art, it was featured at the Worland museum. For my senior project, I had been assigned a ‘surreal’ theme painting. My teacher qualified it to take to state art, but it was past the deadline. Why is it a huge success to be academically proficient at mathematics and science? Why isn’t art or music socially viewed as an academic proficiency an achievement? If artistic people are forced to take years of math and science then why doesn’t proficient math and science students have to take art and music? Art and music classes are viewed as “electives“, meaning they are looked at as an easy A or something to take just to fill your schedule. If you’re “bad” at art and music, then “it’s okay, not everyone has an aptitude for those kinds of things”, but if you are bad at math and science, then “you’re not smart/you’re not trying hard enough/you need a tutor.”
My 5-image learning narrative is focused on: a personal disorder (APD), IEP, learning/personal growth, electives, and aptitude.
Having a personal disorder when I was so young helps me connect with people who also did not have their learning experience easy for them. I had to work twice as hard and that’s okay, because having hard work paid off is so rewarding and satisfying. I’ve had so much personal growth working twice as hard academically. I’ve challenged myself and have overcame obstacles that I thought I’d never conquer. Even though my strong suit subject is not recognized as a proficient or successful talent, it gives me the satisfactory feeling that I’ve accomplished something that I’m actually good at. Math and science are not my aptitude, creativity is my aptitude and that’s why everyone is made different–ordinary is boring!