Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Life Experience that Uniquely Qualifies Me to Speak about Learning Disabilities.

I was born on January 20, 1970 in NYC. My mother says I was almost born in a taxicab. I wore an eye patch for the first few years of my young life to help my eyes adjust; this may have affected my visual nerve development in subtle ways. I enjoyed a busy life as a child, and everyone complimented my ability to speak to adults and settle the disputes of others.

At a young age, I developed an internal compass that I have followed throughout my life. This compass has led me into some strange and wonderful places and through some rough waters. Life is not always fair or kind, but I was blessed with a good family and a rich home.

The seasons turned, and many mysteries of lifes eternal wheel were revealed to me: the color of the sand on the creek bottom near the summer cottage we rented; how the homeless men survived on the streets near our apartment in NYC; the imaginary world I created in adventures with my friends; and the great mystery of my little sisters birth into the world. However, despite all this amazing knowledge, the gift of reading remained elusive.

I wanted so badly to be able to read, but the connection between the action and the ability did not come. I can not remember when I first learned to read; it is buried in layers of feelings I am reluctant to dig through, like an anthropologist afraid of land mines. Here lie the bones of dragons, and over there may be high explosives left over from the wars; either may lead to my destruction, so I will sit quietly and theorize about them.

I am reluctant to admit that my tutors taught me anything, because I am an American and I want to believe that I did it through my own passion and labor. However, I would probably have suffered even more painful failures without the assistance of my tutors or my parents ability to pay for the private reading and writing lessons. I feel for students without the resources to pay for that additional support in today’s schools.

I believe that my passion for stories is what kept me going; my father read novels to me, and I was interested in reading my own books. When I was thirteen, I read The Hobbit in ten hours. I was very proud.

My writing ability has lagged behind my reading ability; like a man who is drunk with his first victory, I reel from place to place, unsure of my footing. It has always been this way with my writing. I cannot write in straight lines, but the curves may be interesting to the beholder.

In ninth grade, I flunked out of the Bronx High School of Science, and I was suicidal that year. I failed physics, biology, English, and Spanish as well, I felt like I failed all those classes. More importantly, I was harassed every day on the school bus by other students. Writing became something I hated. Writing was not creative; it was punishment, a cruel exercise in self-inflicted wounds. Writing was a bloody payment for small gain.

To learn more about my experience of high school, read my remediation report from that time period or my more modern version.

I am proud of my high school diploma, college degree, and Master’s of Science in Education, but I wonder if these degrees were really distractions from the important work I have set myself - distractions that delayed my life’s purpose and wounded me almost to destruction.

So I have set this purpose for myself: to reach out to students who are defined as learning-disabled, dyslexic, or learning-challenged and empower them to identify their passions and dreams, to get the students to laugh at themselves and see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to show them that learning is not complex or hard, but easy and fun.

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