What Every Teacher Needs to Hear About Students Who “Just Don’t Get It”

Teacher, “I have your tests graded”

My heart sinks. I start getting consumed with the worry of crying in front of my peers because I know I will never be as smart or valuable in their eyes.

Teacher, “I was really impressed by how you guys did. Your class had a few low scores but most of you did well and scored high.”

I know those words all too well. Everyone else in the room did great but I am the one who got the low score. I stayed up late studying and nothing I do to prepare for the test well help me get a passing grade.

The teacher proceeds to pass out the tests. Students start shouting out the following, “YES! 95%! I didn’t even study!”

I finally get the courage to turn my test over to look at my test grade. My heart sinks to a place that it hadn’t been today yet. All of the words that others have told me come to my head, “You’re so stupid, you’re not value is nothing, you should try harder…” I got a 40% on that test. If I am not book smart, then what am I? I won’t have any tribute to society, I know that; only the smart people do.

I look at that worthless piece of paper and want to run out of the room and cry. I dream of tearing up the piece of paper and wish it had never existed; that I had never put any answers on it because I am always wrong. At that moment I want a hug and I want my mom. The test is filled with red ink. I hate the color red because it is a reminder of how stupid I truly am. The teacher puts a note on the bottom of the page saying, “See me after class.”

After class I go up to the teacher and say, “You asked to see me.” The teacher asks me if I studied and how I studied. I explain that I studied for several hours at home and during my study halls. I felt confident about it but my confidence lies when it comes to test taking and school work in general.

I go through this cycle several times a week and it is devastating every time. All a dyslexic student wants is to have results that match up with the effort that they put into school. My entire school career has been based off of finding my value based off of test scores and homework papers consumed with red ink. Teachers, whether you have taught me or not, teach in a public school or home school, please recognize that in most to all cases of students who have learning “difficulties” they are not faking it. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been questioned about my learning disabilities because my scores do not match up with the amount of effort I put in it. At the age of four I started being told to stop “faking” not being able to understand what the teacher was trying to teach me because clearly I was just doing this to get attention. I promise you that students like me don’t try to fail everything they turn in to get attention. They would rather be “normal” than get attention for being the student who “just doesn’t get it.” They are not looking lost in class because they are an actor and are simply practicing on the teacher. Yeah, they may mess around during class but socially it’s better to be the “class clown” than to be the stupid kid.

If you are a teacher, parent, friend, or acquaintance of someone who has a learning disability, I beg you to please show them that they are valuable. That their value is not based on standardized test scores, the ACT, and yesterday’s biology quiz. I have often times hated myself for being the “dumb kid” because I was convinced that was all I was going to be in life. If you are a teacher, please remind your students who struggle academically that there is more to life than getting a passing grade on a test because they are not hearing that message by their peers. Get to know them, ask them what they are passionate about and remind them about it after giving a test back. Encourage them to keep trying and working hard because most likely they are the ones who prepared the longest for the test and yet received the lowest grade.

In the words of a dyslexic scientist…

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Einstein.

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