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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Educators versus Teachers - the tragedy

Last week, again, I was reminded of how pivotal good teachers (not educators) are.  An educator passes on knowledge, whereas a teacher understands and takes the time to draw out of the one they’re teaching (child or adult) the very best of what is within that person.

I am of the firm view that there is a direct correlation between intelligence and sensitivity and an inverse relationship between intelligence and arrogance.  The tragedy is that educators mistake brazen and confident (arrogant) behavior and a perceived good work ethic with intelligence.  They often misguidedly project on to the sensitive ones their preference in such behavior and, as sensitive beings, these highly intelligent children or adults withdraw into themselves. 

The information I share is semi-anecdotal, purely because I draw on my own experience and have no empirical research with which I have backed it up.   Everything I am writing about is from a general point of view and is not meant as a target for any particular educator or group of educators.

I have two extremely intelligent and extremely sensitive grandsons.  Their natures are completely different, with the elder having found his confidence at an early age.  To him, everything comes easily from academics to sport and he is loved and fêted by the school system.  So far, so good…

His younger brother is just as intelligent but has not yet found his confidence in himself and his abilities.  He has an attention deficit and comprehension disorder and he needs to either have things explained to him one item at a time or to have instructions repeated so that he can assimilate the substance of the instruction.   Due to the fact that his educator is not prepared to take the time to understand his very real comprehension problems, she refuses to “give him special treatment” and will not repeat or explain instructions clearly – in fact, she goes out of her way to make it difficult for the child, if one can credit that any adult would even consider such behaviour.  This attitude is breaking his spirit and tends to make him either withdrawn or disruptive by turns.  His educator, even in the private school system, cannot see past his, what to her is, erratic and ‘medicatable’ behavior and she shuns him completely to the point of actually telling him to “do what the hell” he wants to do.   I’ve not yet mentioned that this young boy is in Grade 3 and is at a critical and highly impressionable age.  The more this happens, the more this highly intelligent and sensitive young person withdraws into himself.  His confidence erodes further and he turns inwards more and more.  Thank God (I mean this in the strictest sense) for my daughter, who recognises and understands.

The problem does not lie with my grandson; it lies squarely with the educator who does her job but either does not have the ability or has not been taught how to teach sensitive yet intelligent children. 

I stated above that my views are semi-anecdotal.  There’s a reason I used that strange term.

I have three highly intelligent but sensitive children who are all adult now.  School life for all three of them, although different, was just as dysfunctional. 

To my elder son, academics and sport came easily but there was a time when I saw that his school grades didn’t match up with his abilities.  In his Grade three or four year, although his marks were very good, he became disruptive in class and the school advised medication to calm him down.  I put him on the medication for all of six weeks.  It turned my cheerful, clever child into a zombie and I stopped that farce.  Through numerous tests which I had done, we discovered that my son had a severe form of tactile sensitivity.  A good definition I found of this condition is as follows and more information can be found at:  https://kidcompanions.com/tactile-sensitivity-what-it-is-and-the-common-signs/

“Tactile sensitivity or hypersensitivity is an unusual or increased sensitivity to touch that makes the person feel peculiar, noxious, or even in pain. It is also called tactile defensiveness or tactile over-sensitivity. Like other sensory processing issues, tactile sensitivity can run from mild to severe.  It is thought to be caused by the way the brain processes tactile input. For these individuals, touch makes the person feel overwhelmed and often leads to avoiding touch when possible. They may be sent into fight or flight over very small, everyday touch sensations.”

Often, my son would take the hardest scrubbing brush or rough stone he could find and scrub his hands until they were raw because the painful sensations wouldn’t subside. 

Together with the above, my son also suffers from what has recently been discovered to be a real medical condition called “hidden hearing loss” which typical hearing tests don’t measure.  Sufferers are often told their hearing is normal and it is, outside of noisy environments.  There is very real distress in struggling to discern what others are saying in classrooms, crowded social environments and business meetings. My son found it extremely stressful to concentrate in a noisy classroom leading the educator to label him as absent during class discussions.  Once again I thank God for pointing me in the right direction and my son spent many months with a wonderful occupation therapist who helped him overcome his affliction. 

My second child, my daughter, showed very early on in life how intelligent she is.  Once example out of many was when she was three and came to me, distraught.  Her brother had told her that she was stupid because she had no muscles.  “But, Mom, I can’t have no muscles or I wouldn’t be able to move.”  That sort of analytical ability is rarely found in one so young and I fed that gift in her early years.  Two years into her school life, my child was coming home from school every day in tears because she couldn’t understand the work.  The school informed me that my highly intelligent daughter was ‘coping’ with her schoolwork and that she ‘only had an average intelligence’.  I knew firsthand that this was rubbish and, once again, I took my child off to be assessed.  As a result of the tests and, once again, I thank God for His intervention, within two weeks, my daughter was accepted into a school where they specialised in intelligent children who were not coping in the mainstream school system.  My daughter thrived in her new environment where she was given the individualised attention she required.

One of the really annoying aspects of communal schooling is that records from the previous school are required for the new school.  The ‘intelligence’ tests which were done at my daughter’s previous school were accepted as valid and, when, in Grade 7, the transition into high school was to occur, the school psychologist asked me what my plans were for my daughter’s high school education.  I informed them that she would be rejoining mainstream schooling.  The psychologist regurgitated the rubbish that my daughter was only of average intelligence and that they didn’t expect her to get further than Grade 9.  I ignored the ‘advice’ I was given and my daughter was put into the mainstream schooling system.  She had to work harder than other children to catch-up on curricula she’d missed but, (and here again, educators are not teachers and these people did not recognise her intelligence through her sensitivity) my daughter passed Grade 12 with a University Entrance pass.  She went on to successfully complete an international qualification as a fashion designer.  Currently, she is one of the most successful people I know, as a partner in an international business where she travels internationally to motivate and educate hundreds of thousands of people annually and, lately as a partner in a successful secondary, South African business.

My younger son was blessed, in Grade two, to have a wonderful teacher who understood his ADD, ADHD and Dyslexia.  She nurtured his, what she described as “frighteningly clever” brain and he thrived.  In Grade four, this wonderful woman left the school and my son floundered.  He is extremely charismatic and that helped him to be accepted by his peers and the school system but he didn’t achieve in his school work. 

When he was ten and not coping with his reading as he should, I took him to be tested and it was discovered that he has erratic eye/brain coordination.  What was discovered was that his comprehension was that of university educated adult.  However, apart from his dyslexia, his eyes read every word or part of a word at least eleven times before his brain absorbs the context.  This makes reading and definitely oral reading extremely difficult for him. 

When he was in high school, his Grade 9 educator pulled him up in front of the class (the school were fully informed of his learning disabilities) and insisted that he read to the class.  Of course, he failed dismally and, in front of his peers, this educator told him that he was retarded and he was sent to sit at the back of the class and not participate.  He never told me of this.  He simply withdrew within himself.  He deliberately failed his Grade 9 year in the hopes that I would remove him from the school.  I didn’t understand the problem and thought that he was just being difficult and, sadly, I forced him to board at the same school.  This lasted for a few months until I discovered what the real reason was behind his failing.  He was moved into a private college and his marks jumped from seven percent in most subjects, to high 70%s and low 80%s. 

What has happened in my family alone should give all educators and teachers pause.  I and my daughter are aware enough parents to take matters into our own hands.  What of the hundreds of thousands of people who blindly accept what the school and educators tell them?  How many brilliant young lives have been ruined by a system which does not or will not accommodate their learning requirements?

It is not a tragedy, it’s a travesty. 

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