Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 27 2012

Break my heart.

The results are in. His working memory, or how much information he can keep in his head at once, is in the 3rd percentile. Cognitive efficiency, or how well he can make his brain do what it’s supposed to, is in the 1st percentile. Short-term memory, or how well he can remember what you told him 12 seconds ago, is below the 1st percentile. Full-scale IQ is fine, in the low 100s. But he cannot remember what you told him yesterday, what you told him last week, what you told him 12 seconds ago. Also he can’t read guided notes, can’t write himself notes. How in the world is he supposed to learn anything in a regular education setting?

But that’s not really the worst part. I knew he didn’t care too much about answering questions correctly, I knew he would rather sit quietly and let cobwebs grow on him than seek out a way to do the work. Today I learned that he actually had been planning on leaving school when he was 14. He thought for some reason that 14 was the magic age where you didn’t have to go to school anymore if you wanted to drop out, and, at the age of 9, he was already waiting around for that day. When he was told that he was required to go until the age of 18, he was stunned. He gave this perfect summary of what makes learning hard for him: “Sometimes I get an idea in my head but I don’t know what words to say it to someone else.” That is exactly what the problem is, in a nutshell, and by the time he finds the words to say it, he’s forgotten what he was going to say. But when he was asked if he was ready to work on that so it would get easier? “Nope.”

He is not my lowest kid, or at least he’s tied for lowest with two other kids. But one of these other kids is a solid worker and she will do any assignment you give her to the best of her ability. The other comes to school every day and gives 110% on tasks that he isn’t good at and, to a certain extent, can’t do. He is hard-working and cheerful and funny and enthusiastic. That kid is my hero.

I knew school was hard for this kid in question. But what’s breaking my heart is that I didn’t know how much of what I was asking him to do is stuff he flat out can’t do. And I didn’t know how much he doesn’t care.

3 Responses

  1. Lee Berkowitz

    Emi– what tests were run to produce these findings? — is there a medical diagnosis on this kid? Lee B.

    • eminnm

      The tests were a barrage of tasks from picture sorting to listening comprehension to direction-following. Some were verbal, some weren’t, some were timed, some not. It’s the standard set of tests the district uses for reading and processing issues. As far as diagnosis, he counts as Specific Learning Disability, which is the whole category for kids who have average or above IQ and ability, but below average performance on at least one set of processing tasks. Past that it’s not the school’s place to diagnose, so even if they found Dyslexia or ADHD or whatever, they wouldn’t say. It all falls under SLD.

    • I think the answer to this is yes, but it may dneped upon the state. I have been in schools where the school nurse has taught health classes. I’m not sure about regular science classes. There is so much more involved with certification requirements and the Praxis exam.

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In which I muse about New Mexico, teaching, and life in general.

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