What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?
Mia Stroud set her jaw, straightened her shoulders, and strode into her principal’s office. There was the fire of determination in her step, and in her eye. Mr. Avery was startled as he glanced up from the work on his desk.
“Miss Stroud! I didn’t know you were coming in. Is there something I can help you with?”
“Oh yes, yes indeed! I need to talk to you about three of my students. Everyone else seems to have consigned them to the Dumb Pile, and I resent that so much! They’re NOT dumb! They simply have different learning disabilities, and need some help to get them through what is normal for most kids.”
“Ah. You’re talking aboutRandy, Pam, and Charlie. You know, Miss Stroud, many other teachers have tried to bring them up to the mark, but they just won’t work. I don’t think they’re dumb, either. I do think they’re lazy, though, and stubborn. They simply won’t be helped.”
Mia paused to control her temper. Taking a deep breath, she said, Mr. Avery, with all due respect, I disagree. I think they have some learning disabilities. I’ve recommended to their parents that they be tested by the district school psychologist, and those appointments have been made.”
Mr. Avery was silent, clearly displeased. “Don’t you think you should have gone through this office, Mia? At the very least, you should have told me before you set up the testing.”
“Mr. Avery, you would have told the parents it was a waste of time. I need to help these kids. You would have stood in the way because you don’t really believe in learning disabilities.”
Mr. Avery looked down, seemed to be thinking. Finally he looked back at Mia, nodding his head. “You’re right, I don’t. I believe it’s a matter of character, not some supposed lack of connectivity in the brain. You have to look at my nearly 40 years of experience, Mia. You’ve been teaching for five years. Don’t you think you’re being a little presumptuous?”
“No, Sir. I think you’re refusing to listen to and learn from the research out there, to bring yourself up to date on this issue. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be disrespectful. I’m just not willing for these kids to fall through the cracks like so many others have.”
“Well, Mia, I have to commend you for your plain speaking. All right. Let me know how the testing comes out, and what you plan to do to help your students. I’m not really a dinosaur, you know. I’ve just never seen any convincing evidence that this whole learning disability thing really exists.”
Two weeks later, Mia was back in Mr. Avery’s office. The testing had shown several areas of difficulty: Dyslexia, dysgraphia, executive function disorders, auditory problems, and dyscalcula. Armed with specific treatment plans for each student, MIa won Mr. Avery’s support.
Her students were the clear winners, though. With some special arrangements for meeting their specific needs, they began to bring their grades up and to feel so much better about themselves. It was a winning situation for everyone.