Hidden Potential: Guest Post by Saucy B.

Saucy B

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My guest blogger today sharing her teacher memory is Saucy B. She pretends to be tough — she lives in northern New Jersey and claims if you call her a Jersey Girl, she will kick you in the shins — but for all her attitude, Saucy B comes with an enormous side order or good old-fashioned mama love.

I can relate to Saucy B’s story on one hundred levels. When she wrote this post and discussed how she was described by family members as “precocious” but school was academically challenging for her, I totally got it.

@SaucyB is currently taking a break from her blog, but I hope she will drop by to moderate comments. Her post speaks to so many people who have children who are struggling with school.

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Hidden Potential

I was late bloomer when it came to academics. I was young for my grade; in fact, by today’s requirements, I wouldn’t have even been allowed to enter school when I did.

But, since I was rather precocious in nature – often described as being four going on forty by my relatives – my mother didn’t hesitate to enter me into kindergarten.

It’s not that I didn’t get good grades; it’s just that those good grades came as the result of a lot hard work, a little bit of sweat, and certainly a few tears.

I was in my comfort zone with reading and language arts. But math. Oh math. There’s a reason that when I entered college I was an English major with a minor in Communication. (Dear Rutgers University, thank you for dropping your quantitative requirement the year I entered your fine institution.)

Anyway, it was in fifth grade that students in my school system could be chosen to participate in a Gifted and Talented program that met on Saturday mornings called C.A.T. (I haven’t the slightest idea what that stands for anymore.)

While I recall being slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to participate in fifth grade, I wasn’t completely surprised either. I was doing well, but I certainly wasn’t pulling down straight A’s.

Things changed when I entered sixth grade and was in the class of the school’s only male teacher at the time, Mr. Adubato. This teacher really tried to bring new ideas and other ways of learning to the table. He recognized and encouraged my creative writing in a way that no one else had. And after the first marking period, he got me into the C.A.T. program.

I remember being so proud that as part of the program I got to “publish” my own book of short stories. In reality, my work had just been bound with a nice front and back cover by the school librarian. But, to me, it made me legit.

Today, I see my son, who is also young for his grade, struggling as well. Kindergarten was not an easy transition for him. He received basic skills help and was evaluated this summer by the school’s Child Study Team.

At the beginning of the year, I told his teacher, “There are no rose-colored glasses in this house.” And while I’m very much aware and recognize that my son has challenges, I also know that he is extremely bright and articulate. Collectively, we just have to figure out how to unlock the potential that I know is sitting poised and ready in his little body.

How am I so sure of this? Last weekend I had the privilege of transcribing a story that my son made up to go with a comic book he had drawn. He had numbered the pages, established heroes and villains, and formulated a plot with a distinct beginning, middle and end.

He just couldn’t write it.

Apparently, kids his age are supposed to be able to write some semblance of words based on how they sound. My guy isn’t even close to that yet. So we sat. And I told him the letters to write so that he could bring the story out of his imagination and onto the page.

I strongly suspect that things may get harder for my son before they get easier when it comes to his school work. But I hope he is fortunate enough to have a teacher that recognizes his unique capabilities the way Mr. Adubato recognized mine.

How much do you think a child’s age influences his or her academic performance? And what do you think about “gifted and talented” programs?

19 responses to “Hidden Potential: Guest Post by Saucy B.

  1. Having taught gifted I found that it does not mean they make A’s on everything. Several made straight F’s or 0’s all the time because they would not start or finish any task. They will not perform unless the task has some intrinsic value for them. They do not perform to get grades. When there is a matter of interest to their uniqueness they usually do a job that is profoundly superior work surpassing the ability of their otherwise gifted peers.

    Your last paragraph sums it up. The teacher of gifted must recognize those unique capabilities and design lessons(alternative ways for student to express learning that lesson) for a child that will appeal to that child.

    One kid would not read or write a thing. He was a born artist. I gave him an entire wall and over several weeks he produced a mural panorama of American history that would make the art of the Sistine Chapel take second place. He would then narrate the scenes in an oral tradition manner that was impressive as well. Never wrote a thing or took a test. I gave him an A for that grading period.

    Next grading period he began to read enough to challenge the analyses of historical events offered by classmates. Growth continued, and he remained my “go to” art guy.

  2. That brought me to tears! What a beautiful story.

    I was all on my own in school. My parents just didn’t care anymore by the time they got to me. They didn’t even care about college.

    I’m not saying this for sympathy and because I like to whine. Well, I do like to whine, but that’s beside the point . . .

    I am making sure that my daughter’s potential is unlocked. That she doesn’t have to fit into someone’s mold. That I give her everything she needs to find a happy life. That she makes her own way and ends up being a strong and independent woman.

  3. I relate to this post as a parent with two children who have learning challenges. I see many strengths in both and know it’s my job to partner with educators to help them achieve all that they can. Additionally, my good grades throughout school were the result of discipline and hard work. My eighth grade English teacher is the one who inspired me to further my writing talent when she read an essay I authored to the entire class.

  4. As a home educator, I can attest to the fact that each child has his/her own learning style and pace. The funny thing is, that the child I always considered a little behind, is the only one of my three making straight “A’s” in college. You just never know. Sometimes I think having to work a little harder is a blessing.

    • I definitely think so, KD. I was never challenged by public school, so I never developed good study habits or a good work ethic. After all honor rolls in public school, I almost didn’t graduate from college.

  5. My son is a late bloomer as well. He excels in math, but is most likely going to be labeled a learning disabled student when it comes to reading. For the second year in a row he has gotten a “D” in reading and an “A” in math (for the first marking period). For the life of me, I don’t understand how a teacher can say that a child is doing their very best and give them a “D”. If a child can not do the work due to a mental disability, you owe it to him to either get him the help, or curve his grade. Fortunately, my wife works for the school system and is able to be on top of things and is able to push for the proper testing to diagnose him and get him the help he needs.

    The last thing we want is for him to be pushed through the grades because he is smart enough to memorize words, but can not actually read them (he has the vocabulary of a junior in college, according to one test he took). It will only make him more and more frustrated. The last thing we want is an insanely intelligent kid to drop out of school because the school effectively failed him. Not that I’m placing the entire burden on the school. We make sure he reads every day, and that he actually knows what he is reading, not just memorizing the words and sounds of said words.

    • It is so important to be an advocate for you child. We were the ones who initiated the testing with the school because we really thought there was more to E’s struggles than just being young for his grade.
      He’s now in resource room for reading and math and is doing really well. The small class size and techniques they use are helping him make great strides. We feel very fortunate that he has truly wonderful teachers.

  6. You know what, I can so relate. My son is brilliant, but he has struggled terribly with the mechanics of reading and writing. When he writes stories I literally have to spell almost every word for him. I think that some children are way ahead of their age in understanding, and the physical side sometimes struggles to catch up. In school they have recently started asking the kids for ‘wow words’ i.e. descriptive words. Now that they are moving on from mechanics and into the art of the thing, they are suddenly seeing his creativity. It has been a long two and half years, but he’s finally starting to shine as he rightfully should. Fear not, your boy will be the same. I told my son that anyone can eventually learn to read and write. but deep creativity is the gift of few. I know which way round I’d rather it be for myself and my child and so do you🙂

  7. Late bloomers rule! I think it will also help your son that he has a wonderful mom that is looking out for his best interests as well~
    Great post!

  8. Thanks for sharing, Saucy B! No kids yet but I can definitely relate – I had to WORK for good grades and made sure to avoid math at all costs as soon as I could (in college), LOL So glad you’re able to recognize your son’s strengths and help him where he needs it because of your own experiences. I do think there’s a place for G&T programs, but have to be honest that I’ve never thought about it too much. I was never in one!

  9. What a thoughtful post about weaving then and now, what you know and what you need to teach and let learn.

    {Have you ever read Thank You, Mr. Faulkner by Patricia Pollacco? Oh my heart, that book -like this post- restores my faith in the goodness of teachers and relationships.}

    Your son is lucky to have you!

  10. I am a first grade teacher and can tell you that all children learn at their own rate, regardless of what has been determined as “developmentally appropriate” in standards. I am continually frustrated by the whole idea of grade levels, and like to think of “learning disabled” as “learning differently.” Yes, there are things that go on in the brain that may impede learning in some areas. But I have also been able to see the magnificence of the light turning on and stuff beginning to make sense.

    Please, whatever you do, encourage your child to enjoy learning simply for the sake of learning–not about the grades or scores. Read with and to him so that he sees it is not a task to master but something that provides joy and excitement. If that means looking at comic books, look at comic books. I could –if you cannot tell– write a thesis on this. I continue to teach in public schools because I believe the PUBLIC is worth educating. It is my job to ensure they move forward from where they start and they all celebrate what they accomplish. The size of the step is secondary to the fact that steps have been made.

    • I had to butt in. I love this response. Your students are lucky ducks!

      • I agree on all counts. My daughter is twelve now and thriving (in honors English no less). Her reading comprehension is surprisingly good, an area where many students struggle.

        And yet.

        She has trouble processing the words on a page correctly.

        In second and third grade, her teachers would give her low scores for “fluency” because she didn’t read the exact words in a sentence. When I had her read aloud to me to look for the problem they were describing, I could see what they meant.

        However.

        What she did was sort of read the entire sentence in her brain but when she spoke it, she’d paraphrase or change up some of the words. The meaning remained the same, but she was imprecise in her reading and scored low.

        Eventually, her teachers accepted that she was clearly absorbing the material (and making it her own, in a way). But she still mis-reads or speaks words she’s read. Twists them to suit her needs. And is wrong on many occasions.

        We’ve never had her assessed because she scores well on standardized tests (miraculously) and does fine in school.

        She’s just different. And perfect the way she is.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story, Saucy. I have no doubt that your son will succeed in all that he does with such a supportive family. And these challenges that he’s faced with today may not even be an afterthought in the future.

    And I agree with Galit–your son is extremely lucky to have such a wonderful mommy🙂

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