The heartfelt responses to my blogs on dyslexia, and to the programme ‘Don’t Call Me Stupid’ presented by Kara Tointon really move me.
Especially to hear of the many people damaged by being in a system that has let them down.
Years ago, when I was first teaching, I soon began to realise that there were kids who for some reason were unable to learn – particularly to decipher print – in the ways that others could. But this was when dyslexia was still treated as another excuse for a student being lazy. Yet I could see there was something different about the way these children needed to learn.
What alerted me was the fact that they were bright and proactive, engaged and intelligent in all other ways. I watched these children move through the schooling system becoming less proactive, less engaged, as people stopped bothering with them, conveniently labelling them stupid or too unintelligent to learn and therefore abdicating their responsibility. I found this attitude of other staff hard to understand at the time. Surely, if the child seems intelligent and able to learn, whose responsibility is it to help them do so? I don’t dispute there are many scenarios in schools with high proportions of difficult children where it’s almost impossible to teach well, but that’s another problem that needs resolving.
From teaching I went into raising my own children and then onto home educating. We didn’t plan that, our children started in school but I could see the same thing happening to them as I’d witnessed happening to others. Because they didn’t readily and easily ‘fit’ into the required tick boxes they were in danger of becoming labelled poor learners and consequently blamed for lack of attention. Now I may not be the most intelligent person or the best parent in the world but I know damn well that my children had reasonable intelligence and were perfectly attentive. So we decided to home educate.
During our home educating years we met many others like us. Parents home educating bright and intelligent children, who were engaged, keen to learn, motivated, clever. But many of these children had been labelled in school as ‘special needs’ ‘has learning difficulties’ and as a consequence of the shame, bullying and boredom they suffered they soon acquired the label ‘disruptive’.
I still know most of these same children now. Most of them are competent, intelligent, motivated, high achieving and aspiring teens, some gone on to university, others gaining high grades in GCSEs, A Levels and BTECs, some just starting their IGCSE courses at home. They work hard and achieve their aims. And why is that? It’s not because they’ve been crammed by pushy parents – most parents I know who home educate are far from pushy. It’s not because they have super intelligent parents. Most parents are just ordinary parents trying to do the best for their kids. Is it because of private tutoring? No. It’s none of those things. It’s simply because the children have been removed from a system that didn’t fit them.
Notice I said ‘didn’t fit them’ – not the other way round. These children, once removed from the destructive practice of testing and tick sheets, Targets and age restrictions, stressy over burdened teachers and an often destructive school environment, were able to learn at a pace and with an approach that suited them. Not one that suits a school or a government.
Educating children is not about providing a conveyor belt and passing them all along it. It is about developing individuals.
I know that we are all different. I know that through genetics and background some children are more predisposed to learning than others. We are all given different brains and different intelligences.
But I also know – because I have seen them – there are kids who have good brains and intelligence but who are disregarded because they don’t fit into the system of learning that the government wants them to fit into.
What I want to ask is whether it is the kids who are stupid, or the so-called professionals, for their own ignorance, lack of understanding and failure to provide a variety of approaches that would enable a greater variety of children to achieve learning success.
The professionals are the adults, are supposed to know about such things. Why is it that they cannot spot what ordinary parents are spotting; that once removed from the school system children who were apparent failures can become successful learners?
Who is it that’s really stupid here?