A Peculiar Learner

In 1990, I officially became a peculiar child. To know me now, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. But back then, teachers didn’t know what to do with me.

A few years earlier, my parents and the school district put me through a series of tests; the result demonstrated that I was exceedingly smart. My scores revealed I had an IQ higher than most kids my age. Starting in the third grade, I was enrolled in a class called Enhanced Learning. One day per week, students who (like me) tested with exceptional IQs met for our own class separate from our regular courses to do things that smart kids do. It was like AP classes for elementary aged kids.

Fifth grade started in the fall of 1989. I was still in Enhanced Learning (which was the highlight of my week), but I was struggling to keep up with my normal class curriculum. By the end of the year, my folks took me to see a psychiatrist who gifted me an ADD diagnosis and told me I had a learning disability that was a cousin to dyslexia. After the new year, the school began adjusting my schedule to provide me additional support.

These changes put the school in a predicament, which is why I said I was officially a peculiar child. The only support the district had at the time was special education. I was the first student in the Marysville school district to be simultaneously enrolled in advanced and remedial classes. For an hour a day, I sat in the library with a few kids who had physical disabilities that prevented them from functioning in the standard classroom environment. The administration assumed I needed help learning science and mathematics and special education was their solution. But learning wasn’t my problem; I knew the material. My biggest issue was getting the work done. I was far more intelligent than they understood. They made a false equivalence between achievement and intelligence. If I was so smart, they assumed my grades should be better.

My learning disability caused me to write slower than most kids. My brain also functioned at a faster pace than the teacher could teach, so I grew bored and distracted. Neither of those issues were addressed through special education nor did it inhibit my ability to comprehend the lessons I was supposed to learn. My biggest challenge was that I didn’t do the work. Either I didn’t have enough time or attention. I literally couldn’t keep up.

These days, I consider myself a constant learner. Maybe it’s a rebellious act against those teachers who never thought it could be done, my way of proving them wrong. I've become an autodidact. I study even when it’s not required because I have a strong desire to learn and know more. As an adult, I still want to be the smartest kid in the room.

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