Monday, February 24, 2014


As a special ed teacher I served a great many students identified as "Learning Disabled or LD."
Most of the time my biggest job with these high school kids was convincing them of the truth.  Years of school had them believing a lie.
The truth is that every single student I ever taught was gifted.
Another truth is that LD should stand for "Learns Differently." There's no disability about it. Just challenges.
For some people sitting and listening to lectures works. Others need a different approach to learning. Personally I can read anything. But I can't learn to do the simplest things on the computer unless someone stands behind me and tells me every key to push and then watches while I do it myself a few times.  Even then I sometimes need directions taped to the wall!  My students used to get so exasperated with me that I'd have to pay them to show me "one more time." Cheat sheets cost me $3!  I wouldn't pay unless I could do it perfectly from their directions though. They had to watch and wait, usually with foot tapping and eyes rolling.  They all knew "computer" from infancy it seemed. Turns out that computer's a very important life skill nowadays by the way. But even though they were wizzes in cyberspace, 10 or 12 years in classrooms where reading and math were most important, and usually taught with heavy emphasis on good auditory skills, convinced these ''learns differently" students that somehow they weren't as smart as the other kids.  That's just not true!

I'll never forget a conference I once had with Hector, a wonderful senior boy. We were going over his grades, schedule, credits, etc., getting ready for a meeting with teachers and parents. This young man was bright and talented in so many ways.  But as we looked at the computer screen together he kept saying, "I've never been any good in English, Mz Dub," "I've never been any good in math either." "Not so good in history." Again and again.  Subject after subject.  After a while, by the sound of his voice and the slump of his shoulders, I knew that what he really meant was,  "I'VE never been any good."  It broke my heart.

This is what he believed after years in classrooms.

Well, it made me furious! I was so upset it drove me into one of my famous tirades!

I shouted, "Hector! Dagnabbit!  What in tarnation are you talking about!  Just this week at least three kids have come by this classroom looking for you after school because they couldn't get their cars started!
"Mz Dub," they whined, "I need Hector, have you seen him? My car won't run and he's the only one who knows how to fix it." 
"Mz Dub, I need Hector to fix my motorcycle."
"Mz Dub, my dad wants to see Hector about his fuel injectors. Have you seen him?"

Hector's also a star tackle on the varsity football team and has so many friends of every kind and color you could never count them.

I went on.
"And let me tell you about just a few of the other things that I've noticed that you're really, really, GOOD at.  For one thing you're open, friendly and comfortable with all kinds of people. Girls, boys, teachers, black, white, brown, it doesn't matter. Everybody likes you. I once asked you, a big-deal senior, to escort one of our new and scared little freshman to class on his first day. Some of the other football players caught up with you like they always do and Mr. Davis later told me that you stuck your head in his classroom and said, "Hey, Mr. D., this is my friend Raul. He's new. Thanks for taking care of him." Mr. Davis said that new and very scared boy immediately had a roomful of kids who wanted to eat lunch with him!  
Hector!!! Do you know what that kind of people skill is worth? Don't you know how far you could go in life with it? Do you know where it could take you professionally as well as personally? That kind of people instinct is priceless!
And about that car thing. A lot of people think you're a genius with an engine, Hector!  Do you know how many engines there are in this world?  Do you know where your skill with them can lead?  It can take you to a place where you can hire a secretary to do all your writing and an accountant to do your math for one thing!
So, Hector, this is what we're going to do. We're going to get through the English and math requirements using every backdoor we can find so you can graduate from high school. Then you're going to take every class you can that addresses your considerable talents.  Auto mechanics,  business and free enterprise, (for when you open your own), and marriage and parenting, (the most important job in your future).  Then you're going over to see the auto program sponsored by General Motors and Ford at the local community college and see what it takes to get in there.   An LD student I once had just called to tell me he's a factory certified Ford mechanic now, working at a dealership for just a short time, and making over      $90,000.00 a year!
Hector, I'm really good at reading and taking tests,  I've worked hard and paid for a college education and beyond, I have well over 25 years experience teaching and I don't even come close to making that much, and never will!
Now money isn't everything Hector, but don't tell me that young man has a disability, please!"

I stopped ranting then to take a breath because Hector said my face was beginning to look a little blue.

We finished our conference, he went back to his seat and I called Lettie up to work on her file.
"Leticia, what are you really good at?" I started.
"Mz Dub, I'm not really good at anything," she said.
"Yes you are, Lettie.  Please don't make me angry,"  I replied, "Think harder."
Finally she said, "Well I bake stuff for my family's birthdays and things. They all come to me for my special cakes. I can't think of anything else."
"That's a wonderful start!   Ever hear of Mrs. Fields or Famous Amos, Lettie?"

What is it that the scriptures say?
To each is given a talent.  To some one and to others another. That all may profit thereby, I think it goes.
Notice that "a few" are not given a talent.  It says EACH.  That must mean that every single person has something of value to offer. Something unique. Given by Father. So we all can benefit from each others gifts.

There is this thing about "talents" though.
The truth is that talents don't usually come fully developed. Most are like seeds. They may take years of digging, watering, and weeding before the fruit's ready to eat. Sometimes it gets mighty uncomfortable while you're out there digging too. You can't quit before the harvest. Or believe that just because your talent needs work means it's not valuable. I know that Hector had been fixing engines with his grandpa and dad since he was a little boy of 5, and naming and handing tools under the car before that.
Make no mistake.  God has spoken.  You have something valuable to give.  It can bless your life and the lives of many others.
Don't ever believe that you're no good. You're good in such a way that all of the rest of us need what you have to offer.
Find out what it is and get digging.