I was reading a newsletter on one of my favorite author's website last week. What he mentioned about his schooling was interesting. He said that the school "did not address (his) needs or potential." Talent, at least not his, was not the focus of the school, but rather "memorization and conformity".
It reminded me about the time when I took a class I was told I couldn't or shouldn't take. I was in my sophomore year, fall semester, when my English teacher suggested I take honors English the next semester. I was surprised, but also too scared to do so. I took regular English in the spring and by then I had time to think and decided to take the honors class in the fall of my junior year. I just had to get my teacher's approval, but I had a different teacher in the spring and she didn't agree. I then went to the school counselor and asked for approval. She looked at my grades which were all A's in at least English. Then she looked at my last test scores from a comprehensive test like ITBS done every other year. My reading comprehension score was just barely in the average range so she suggested I don't take the honors class.
They thought I wasn't smart enough to handle the honors class and that infuriated me. All my A's weren't good enough. If I wanted to take the honors class, why couldn't I? So I came up with a plan. All I had to do was get my teacher to sign approval for a regular English class (a 4 digit course number) and afterwards add an "H" to the course number. That was all that was needed to make it honors. And I was in.
No one said anything. No one knew. My mom knew it was the first time I took an honors class, though. During back-to-school night my junior year, she asked that English teacher how I was doing. My mom expressed concern because this was my first honors class. (Gee, ma, thanks for the confidence.) The teacher said she hadn't realized that, but I was doing fine. I think I remember starting out getting C's, then moving up to B's at least by the end of the fall semester, but definitely by spring. And by spring, I took that comprehensive test again. My reading comprehension scores went up a lot. I was peaking into the "above average" area. Believe me, this was a big jump. I took honors English for my senior year as well. I was making A's by then.
I can only thank that one English teacher I had in my sophomore year. She saw my potential. I just had to come up with the courage. I just don't know why it was so strongly adviced I don't take that class, when my regular class grades were so good. Why base my ability on one test? I don't test well and that should have been considered. Too, what about motivation? If I have the desire to take the class, to challenge myself, why should I be denied?
In my opinion, I should have been allowed to try the class the first 6 weeks. What's the harm? I either don't like it and switch back or like it and continue. The denial just offended me and would have discouraged me if I hadn't broken the rules or whatever it was they were going by. Sometimes, the schools focus too much on test results and forget that there's a real, live, breathing, flexible, teachable, changing person behind them. If we aren't supporting and encouraging ourselves and our kids and students to seek challenges, how do we learn? How do we grow? How do we succeed?
December 4, 2008