But first a personal story…. About me…. And why I still struggle with issues surrounding intelligence today, at age 43!
I was five and a half when I started school, back in the late 1970’s. Pre-primary was not big back in those days and so I had attended a play school for a year or two before starting in Sub A. Right off the bat I struggled. An emotionally immature child, I was painfully shy and very very timid, always baring the brunt of the class bully, having my lunch stolen, my pencil case ransacked. I hated school, my mom will tell you that still, to this very day, she can still hear my screams as she sat in the car park of the school, after dropping me.
“Mommy, don’t leave!”
“Mommy, come back!”
I hated every single minute of school. I remembered feeling fearful ALL the time.
Then a few months into my Sub A year, after some basic school readiness tests, like ruling a line, hopping on one leg etc, I was moved to a remedial class for kids with learning disabilities. I hated school even more then. I struggled all the time and I still remember having a distinct sensation of panic, daily at school.
There was a lot of talk amongst the adults, about me, about my struggles with school, my emotional immaturity. I may only have been 5 but kids are not dumb and they can and so often do, pick up on these undercurrents. There was covert conversations about whether or not I should be kept back a year or pushed ahead. My dad’s cousin was a remedial teacher, he came to our house and did a bunch of assessments with me but ultimately the school decided I should be pushed ahead.
I struggled through Sub B. I continued to hate school. Then I got to Std 1 and I had a horrible teacher…. I couldn’t stand her and I am pretty sure she didn’t much like me. It was only in later years that I learned that she had told my parents I was pretty much a hopeless case and the best thing would for me to get to 16, drop out of mainstream education and learn a trade because I was mostly just a breathing amoeba and would never amount to much.
I cottoned on to all of this. Like I said, I may have been a breathing emoeba but I was not completely dumb.
I got pushed through and pushed through and pushed through until Std 4. Always bottom of my class, always the dumb kid who struggled, when class marks were read out, mine was always last, the lowest marks in the class. Always.
But in Std 4 I just gave up. What was the point in trying right? I was just as thick as pig shit so why continue to try and try and try and just never be good enough? Never be smart enough? My brother was brilliant and my cousin was not far behind him, I was the one that was clearly absent the day they were handing out the brains, because I didn’t get any!
So I failed Std 4.
And it was the best bloody thing that could ever have happened to me! From that day on, I developed a passion for reading and writing and everything just clicked into place. I was by no means an academic, but I was no longer the dumb kid in my class.
The problem is… that label… the dumb kid, the kid who always struggled. It stayed with me. Throughout the course of my life, it’s something I still struggle with today as a mature, fairly intelligent woman of 43! I often will shy away from expressing an opinion on something for fear of being thought stupid, I hate making mistakes for fear that people will know I’m stupid. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! I have a hard time thinking of myself as anything more than a little bit dim!
Now…. Back to the point of my blog post…..
Ava is 5, she turns 6 in mid-December and she’s in Grade R, in some instances, she is almost a year younger than some of her class mates, she’s at least 8 to 9 months younger than almost everyone in her class. She is by far the youngest in her class and one of the youngest, if not the youngest in her grade. She has always been bright and always received 5 star school reports that is until the last two terms. In 8 out of the 10 assessment areas…. She needs “more focus”. She battles with writing, which we hope will improve now that she has glasses, she struggles with concentration and following through with an instruction. She gets bored easily and doesn’t like to finish tasks.
Having been the child that struggles, I think the reason she doesn’t finish tasks is because she’s struggling.
Her teacher says she is not flagged as one of the kids that should be kept back but that after reviewing this term progress and discussions with the foundation phase principal, they feel we may be right and it may be in her best interests.
Just to be sure, we’re booking an assessment with their in house School Psychologist and Play Therapist to have her assessed.
And while in my heart I know keeping her back is probably for the best, I’m scared. I’m scared of the long term effects this will have on her. Everyone says rather now than later and I agree, but I also know how this can affect a person, I am that person, I live with that stigma of being the dumb kid, I don’t want that to happen to her. I don’t want her to go through life experiencing what I have.
And lastly, how do I tell her? How do we explain this to her? How do we get her to turn this into a positive? How do we tell her that it’s a good thing that all her friends are moving on and she’s staying behind?
She’s only FIVE! 5 years old…. she has lived 1/5th of her life less than some of her class mates. My heart is breaking!
Thank to everyone that weight in on my cry for help on Twitter earlier, here are just some of the tweets that struck a chord with me:
— Debbie Thackeray (@DebbieThacks) September 22, 2015
— Genna Hansen (@gennahansen) September 22, 2015
— Lisa Smith (@tell_lisa) September 22, 2015