“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein
This is a quote I just saw on FB today. A friend of mine posted it and she had taken it from her 12 year Old’s wall. Wow! That is genius alright for a kid that age to grasp this.
Yeah, that sentence actually spoke to me, you know, when a picture, a song or a phrase just seems to stop the earth all around you for a split second and it’s actually saying “this IS for YOU”. Well that is what it felt like to me.
It brought me back to my youth…times when I was about 11 or 12 (for those who know me well, will be shocked that I did not say when I was 5 years old…haha, gotcha). I remember listening in math class and my mind would wander because, let’s face it, during a math class, my daydreams were by FAR, more interesting and captivating. If only I could write as quickly as my thoughts and dreams came through. I guess that is why I blog and have not yet written a book. Alrightee, I digress…so back to my point.
During such math classes, my teacher would call me to the board to solve a math equation…Oh boy! what an utter embarrassment! I kept wondering if my slip was showing or if my uniform (navy tunic) was hanging right or if I had a run in my tights. I would hunch my shoulders to minimize my 5’6” height. I would have to actually force my mind to concentrate on those darn figures and x’s and fractions and decimals and put the magical digits that would have to come after the = sign. I would walk up to the blackboard (but really it was green) and words kept bombarding my thought process…echoing in my head: “Stupid, stupid, you don’t know anything, you are so bloody stupid” and on and on it would go. Sheesh! It took all my concentration and I would squeeze my eyes shut for a second and scold myself to just focus on the math problem.
A loud heavy sigh from the teacher came next … that really helped, thank you very much Mr. so and so, and then a few giggles from the silly grade 4 girls. Thank goodness the boys in my grade were very silent as I could actually feel their silent cheering and encouraging me to know the answer. They sure did not want to have to go to the board next and if I got it right the first time, they were often absolved this type of humiliation.
Oh, did I mention that I was in Grade 7 and in our classroom of 30 students were grades 4 to 7? I was the only girl in the grade 7s of 6 students. Yeah, that’s what they did in our little out of the way, francophone town (francophone means French in Quebec we add “phones” to distinquish languages. Ummm actually in this province, there are 3: francophones, anglophones and allophones are for the rest of the world’s languages).
There was an English school in my town but it was part of the Protestant school board and our Catholic priest (in the early ‘60’s) convinced my mom that my sister and I would be excommunicated from the church if we attended; so she sent us to this francophone Catholic school that gave us 2 classrooms from Grades 1 to 7. This is where I actually improved my French by playing with francophone girls ( even though the principal prohibited such socializing). I learned to skip rope and speak French. I actually came out the winner in the mêlé in this school system. This was way before English or French immersioin classes…maybe someone got the idea in arrangements like that:)
Anyways the boys in my grade were real tight and they even considered me one of the guys. We were a family looking out for each other. Lots more stories to share some other time.
After my brilliant response to the math problem, walking back to my desk with my head a little higher, my buddies were whistling and praising my success. I felt pretty darn smart. In fact, I was lucky that I did have a teacher that year…although he lacked in the patience category…he believed in me. I would stay after class to talk with him and at first I was uncomfortable because my first experiences with males was facing put downs and criticisms; yet hearing him plead that I try a bit harder because he knew I was smarter than what I led on, did sink in.
In grades 4 and 5 I had strayed in my school performance. We were only 2 students at the time and I sure did not get much competition or a challenge. Heck I knew I would come first or second on my report card, so that still looked good…as long as the rest of the world did not learn we were only 2 students.
In grades 4 & 5, I certainly lacked motivation; we had 2 teachers who struggled managing our class and it was just so darn hard to concentrate in a classroom with 4 grades. It seemed that I was just good at helping the younger grades and by the time the teacher got to our grade I was too far gone, lost in my thoughts and in lala land.
My mom tried to help but she was French and educated in French as well. So it was hard for her to help me and easy for me to make up stuff and pull the wool over her eyes. My dad worked late and never got home until passed our bedtime. Well that was probably a good thing as he was the least patient man I ever knew. So god forbid if he was to tutor me. If I did not grasp something right away he would say under his breath: “JC you’re stupid!”. Hence the part of “stupid” in this quote that hits home.
In those days if you had average to good marks no one noticed if you had a learning difference. I remember during homework time, I could read a chapter in a book and not remember one word I had read…my mind was wandering on my much more interesting daydreams, or a conversation I had had with a friend or something going on in my family. So I would reread the darn chapter and literally bawl at the end for still not understanding what I had read.
Then I would read a few paragraphs and jot down notes of what I read or read out loud to myself; sometimes I would read a page and repeat in my own words what I had read…out loud. In university I would tape myself reading chapters and listen to the tape in the car on my way from work to school before a test; I found reading out loud helped to keep me focussed.
I still managed to get average marks but it irked me because I knew I was smarter than those dumb tests revealed. In fact by the time I went back to university as a mature student (a mom of 2 school- aged kids actually) I took one college algebra course and got an A! My teacher would patiently repeat in another manner until the students grasped the concept. Yep, he was an A+++ teacher in my books. It did also help that I practised my math homework for hours.
I majored in Applied Human Relations & Social Science, so the test results were not always great but I had lots and lots of term papers, projects and presentations to do and that is why I did finally graduate and, with distinction. I can’t be that “stupid” to have done that, right? Granted it was a long journey due to the time it took me to read and focus but I still did it and in my own time and my own way. I wonder if I had been diagnosed at that time with ADD if I would have had more help or if it would have simply given me a label and exposed me to more unwarranted remarks and impacted my already low self-esteem. Who really knows?
But then again, the point of this story and the quote is that I was able to succeed with flying colours because finally, in post-secondary education I was finally in my element. I enjoyed helping people and had volunteered for many years before finally going back to get my degree. Was it hard work? Sure but I enjoyed learning what I was good at…I was a like a salmon swimming upstream at times and eventually struggled less as I became a stronger swimmer; I was NOT like that poor thing trying to climb a tree anymore.
We all have our genius in us…it just takes time to cut the crap that may push you down or steer you in the wrong direction, until you finally find your own niche. What’s yours?
© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts 2012