Hubby and I have three children, Eldest Son, Daughter and Young Son, identified thus for the purposes of this blog. There is one public middle school and one public high school in our district. Two of our children, Eldest Son and Daughter, have successfully navigated the public school system, doing the requisite mounds of homework and getting high marks.
Young Son, on the other hand, has had difficulty working within the system since he was a wee one. Actually, we knew he was going to have trouble before he even started. He has a personality very much like Hubby’s and Hubby had the same issues with the school system when he was a kid. Both of them need time to fully process information. They can’t simply cram it down and spit it back out for tests and such. They’re slow readers and slow writers, neither of which works well for the system. This is not to say that because they are slow, they are unintelligent. Au contraire! Once they process data and concepts, they can explain things in great detail and use what they’ve learned for complicated arguments and quick-witted comments, among other practical uses.
Because Hubby didn’t fit within the local public school system, he has always felt he’s not particularly smart or talented. I’d venture to guess that both he and Young Son would score high on intelligence tests, but you wouldn’t know that from their middle and high school grades.
What saddens me is that we have a school system that only works for a narrow band of students, the ones who learn the way schools typically teach, the ones who “get” things immediately, the ones who can learn while sitting still, the ones who read and write quickly, the ones who are interested in the precise topics presented, the ones willing to do mountains of homework after spending all day in school.
Like my eldest two children, I did well in school, but why couldn’t there be a system that works for people like Hubby and Young Son? Why can’t every student have an IEP?
An IEP is an Individualized Education Program, which is a set of instructions and needed services worked out between teachers and parents in order to meet the learning abilities of students with special needs. While IEPs are reserved for those with some sort of disability, there would be value in evaluating each student’s learning style and figuring out how best to accommodate it. (If we can identify a kinesthetic learner, why haven’t we built a mode of teaching for kinesthetic learners into our system yet?)
Of course, the argument will be made that providing each student an IEP would cost too much and be impractical to implement. We gotta herd those kids through and pack the required data into their heads, whether it sticks or not. We’ve just got to pretend the system works for everyone, rather than truly making it work for everyone.
Note: We did not learn ’til after Eldest Son left the local public high school and attended the Perpich Arts High School for his senior year that he felt he didn’t fit into the local school system either. He didn’t feel challenged, but because he got good grades, he was certainly considered a success in the eyes of the system.