Today I was honest with my grade 3 students and I think it surprised them. In fact, I don’t think they believed me at first.
I shared how when I was a student I did poorly. I had mostly C’s and D’s on my report cards. I wasn’t motivated to complete my tasks and would often scribble sloppily to get it done rather than taking my time and effort. My spelling was awful, I overused comma’s, my basic math number sense skills shocking and my cursive was a disaster at best. I can vividly remember learning cursive in the fourth grade. When we became “neat enough” we were given a blue ball point pen to do our school work with. I was the last person in my class to get one. My teacher said with a scowl when she handed it to me “Your cursive is still awful but you are the last one in the class to get a pen so here.” It still makes me emotional and ashamed when I think of that moment. For years I avoided writing cursively. I’m learning it all over again with my students.
I was so uninspired by my education that in grade seven instead of doing our big animal research project I had materials spread around me about penguins but I never actually completed a project. I lied to my teacher and tearily said “I did hand it in.” I guess she believed me as she said I saw you working hard on it and you’re such a nice girl. For the record, I was given a B on that project – one of my best marks in elementary school.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have potential to do well. Or that I didn’t have great educators, generally I did. I liked my teachers but I was terribly shy so asking for help when I didn’t understand something just wasn’t going to happen. I felt awkward and uncomfortable around my peers. I felt different like I couldn’t relate to them. I didn’t get them and I know for sure they didn’t get me.
I loved learning. I remember making elaborate butterfly life cycle models and painting them with my mom and bringing it proudly school in the third grade. As a Kindergarten student I was very interested in Dinosaurs and when my classmates shared for show and tell what they were going to be when they grew up I proudly proclaimed -a palaeontologist and my teacher was awestruck! I knew dinosaur names, facts, and details and created volcano models. I was fascinated by constellations prompted by winter Girl Guide hikes I remember even getting a star machine for Christmas one year that was accompanied by a tape. I would spend evening after evening listening and learning. I loved nature, collecting seeds, leaves and rocks. I read novel after novel. Young Adult, Adult didn’t matter I always had a book in hand. My parents purchased us an kids animal/nature encyclopedia set and I read all of the books cover to cover, over and over. When I think back to myself as a child I’m shocked I didn’t end up in a science-based career, but I failed grade nine science I wasn’t good at it.
I want to reiterate that I had great teachers. I was just an out of the box student that didn’t fit within the makeup of our school system.
I needed to share my struggles and then my success story with my students today because I needed them to understand that I understand. Success is so much more than an A or B on a report or a great score on a standardized test. This is why I am trying to dive more and more into an inquiry based program. The spark comes from the students and hopefully it reaches those out of the box thinkers.
My daughter is me. She wants to do her own thing all.of.the.time. She loves birds, insects, reptiles and nature collections. Her favourite netflix show is Magic School Bus (or My Little Pony). She’s soft, sensitive, shy but strong in her convictions and is great at advocating for herself. She fits well into an inquiry based world and I hope that her future teachers will get her.