What if I asked you to rethink the “low” kids?

by Janelle Hanchett

Growing up, I understood that there were two groups of students: The smart ones and the dumb ones.

The ones who couldn’t sit still, who fidgeted, who “got in trouble a lot,” who got “bad” grades, who the teachers didn’t like – they were the dumb ones.

Maybe it was their fault. Maybe not. Who cares. All that mattered was they weren’t as good as the rest of us and somewhere, somehow, I knew school was made for me.

I felt a little sorry for them because their work was never on the walls and they never got picked for anything. Their position was locked forever in the barely shrouded “ability level” groups.

Call it “Group C” all you want, teacher. We know what it means.

I shook my head in irritation and sat back in sweet superiority.

They were the low kids.

I was with the high kids.

Basically, we could never mix. School was MY ZONE. They were interlopers.


Hey. Hi. I have one of the “low kids” now.

It’s hard to look at your son and know that some teachers will dismiss him as just another problem to be passed on to the next year and each new school year feels like teetering over the edge of a deep chasm waiting to see if we’ll fall, or, which teacher we will have.

It feels like a fucking lottery. (Thankfully, we won it this year.)

It’s hard to see your son in all his complexity reduced, once a year, to a pdf of psychological assessments and charts and tables, the far right column stacked with numbers correlating to the “low average” and “deficient” and “at risk” section of their bell curve, over and over again like a brick across your face even though the very first line states “high intelligence.”

My boy will be the one coloring on his notebook while the teacher is talking. He’ll be drawing a battle-axe on a tiny sliver of paper. He’ll be fidgeting with a loose screw on the desk leg.

He’ll be the slowest to read. He’ll be pulled out of the room. He’ll be on question #1 when the class is already done with the worksheet. He may be told to “hurry up.” He may have a pen ripped out of his hand. He may have an aide sit next to him and say, “You’re doing great. What can we do next?”

He’ll be tongue-tied in the front of the room. He’ll be struggling for the right word. In the timed spelling tests, he’ll get 1 out of 10.

And you may see him as the low kid. You may see him as the interloper. The trouble. The bother.


What if I told you he memorizes directions to cities we’ve been to once?

What if I told you he fixes our vacuum by scanning the damn thing and tells me how small engines at the fair work even though nobody has taught him about engines or vacuums or maps?

What if I told you he does math word problems in his head and what if I told you when he’s sitting there flicking the end of his pencil over and over again that HE IS ACTUALLY LISTENING, that is him listening, and if you ask him a question about what you just read he will tell you all about it and even more than that he’ll tell you what he knows about it because he’s curious.

What if I told you he’s curious, wise, and trying?

He wants to be with you. He wants to succeed. He wants to be a “high kid.” Fuck these categories. He wants in anyway. We all do. That’s how this system works, you know.

He wants to speak more clearly. He wants to talk as fast as you. He wants to get his thoughts out he wants to decode he wants to read at the level his brain is capable of comprehending

but mostly he wants to not be broken.

Shamed and punished.

For being dyslexic.

(But even that he can’t say. That is what I say, and fight for, and will accept nothing less than.)


What if told you he has a headache at the end of each school day and falls asleep by the time we are at the freeway exit because every hour my kid works at school feels like an entire day and he gets up every morning and does it anyway. Because he wants to have his work on the wall.

What if I asked you to remember that?

What if I asked you to remember that when you’re teaching or volunteering or speaking with your “high” kids or watching that kid who’s always behind, like an irritant, an intruder, a distraction from the “smart kids” who “want to learn.”

What if I asked you to rethink the whole scenario, all the “low kids.”

Because the main difference between my kid and yours is that SCHOOL IS NOT MADE FOR MINE.

(Possibly, it’s not made for either of them, but that’s another blog post.)

So here’s to the kids in the back. And their parents.

They’re higher than we know.

It’s up to us to rise.

And meet them.

I share this photo often because it's everything I'm trying to say in one image.

I share this photo often because it’s everything I’m trying to say in one image.

  • Josh

    I was going to say, he’s probably my just really smart. Turns out, smart people don’t typically like authority, and get bored really easily, especially when they are probably smarter than their underpaid under educated teachers, who unfortunately just have to go by the book and would probably get dismissed for allowing a student to follow a different program than all of the other studens. I remember asking alot of questions that my teachers either couldn’t answer or said don’t worry about. I also hated authority. Turns out it worked out in my favor down the line, but I was a straight d and f student. I had no trouble at all in college, and actually did really well. High school though, I was more worried about my social life and genuinely didn’t like authority.

  • tamk3

    I have tears right now because I know. Was going thru papers last night and came across a neuropsychological exam that was done on mine and it’s heartbreaking to read. Knowing how smart and intelligent your child is in their own right and knowing how hard they want to excel in school, but they can’t be a “high one”. Knowing how long I did a disservice to him because it took longer than it should have for me to realize it. Knowing that today he may do his french homework with ease in 30 minutes but tomorrow it may take 3 hours. Knowing he can’t get dressed unless he feels that everything he’s wearing matches, down to his shoes, even if it looks ok to us. Knowing that he tries his absolute hardest everyday but at the end he feels like it wasn’t enough. How he can play 8 instruments very well while only having been trained on one. In his words, he does it for fun. We are their biggest advocates and supporters and no one is going to tell me that my kid or your kid isn’t just as high. That they are just as special.

  • Anna

    Parenting is a brutal job. You are amazing, inspiring, and tough. Your kids are and will be amazing people.

  • Jessica

    Wow, I too have a struggled. It pains me to see others dismiss him cause his is smart as fuck with logical things, and he is only 7 ! He loves everyone, hugs and gives things away…..School though, he dislikes being still….has a hard time remembering anything he reads. Polar opposite of his mom, lol….I was the scholar….smart…but logic is not my strong point. It takes all kinds huh. Funny how our teenage and elementary selves missed the best parts of people around us.

  • Christine W

    Yes. This is me. This is my child. This is my life every year (he is now in 6th grade). I cried reading this because I often feel alone. Especially when other parents demand my child’s removal from “their” child’s class. Or the teacher that doesn’t get it! Oh boy. THank You for this. Thank you a million times over.

  • Rose

    Yep. Was one of the ‘smart’ kids. Could read easily early. One on my sharpest memories was getting in trouble in first grade because I was feeding another kid answers on a reading exercise. I didn’t understand. Reading was SO easy. I just wanted to help him. Years later and yes , I have one of those kids who just can’t. Can’t grasp the written word. Struggles with every aspect of school. ( because let’s face it, if you can’t read NO part of school will be easy) Tries and tries and SO wants to. Works harder than all her siblings combined just to stay afloat. I am happy to say with the right tutoring/therapy/reading coach she was able to master reading. First time I caught her reading a book just for fun? Holy Shit what a moment. Still works so hard in school but can do it now. It does open your eyes to how different every kid is!
    Thank you again

  • Katie

    This is beautiful, that is all. And I have to stop reading your stuff at work, because invariably, I end up a weeping pile of mush.

    • Barb

      Ditto another blubbering mush pile over here.

  • Rosanne

    Your son is lucky to have you. And our world is lucky to have him–he’s doing great things and they’ll only get greater! Keep telling him that! And that blog about how school fits no one? I wrote that already: http://and-then-ill-sit-down.blogspot.com/2013/04/exceptional.html

  • Rose

    And here’s to all the teachers and aids and tutors who DID understand and helped her and told her over and over that she was great just as she was. Because they NEED to hear it from someone besides their parents. Who helped her grow her confidence, helped her realize that she could do it /get it/understand it; and that if she had to figure out a different path to get there, THAT WAS OK! You all rock

  • Margie

    It kills me that he has to do this, fit into this mold that doesn’t have space for his awesomeness. And I don’t want to say or think that I hope you can find some great vocational program where his talents are considered assets. I think vocations are great and if that’s where he wants to be then that is great. What I am trying to say is that we NEED him and others like him in the professions too. That we, as a society, need to recognize the value in the people whose brains our wired differently and how they may help us solve some of our greatest problems. And part of recognizing that is making school, including college, work for people like Rocket, like my brother Tom. And not just “accomodate” but actually be geared towards them.

  • Lisa D'Alessio

    Yep. All of this. My kiddo had the same deal, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t pay attention, constantly in trouble, but could work math problems in his head when he was 4. I was working on my master’s in counseling, and the director from a local school (for kids who learned differently) came in. He was telling us about kids who don’t learn the way most kids are taught in school, and he started naming off behaviors: wanting to skip school, being “sick” a lot, getting in trouble, being sent to the back table because they can’t stop talking/looking around/playing with things. He recommended getting the kids tested for learning differences….we discovered that despite an IQ of 145, my son had learning differences–he could process anything in his head, but writing things down was another matter. His teacher was uncaring….she just didn’t want to deal with the “trouble.” So we pulled him from school, and I homeschooled him through 3rd and 4th grade. When we moved to another school district, we found a teacher who had learning differences when she was young….she was the perfect teacher for him, because she moved him from rote reading/writing to kinesthetic learning. It worked for him.

    He’s graduated college, and teaches English overseas. He is a confident scholar now because he figured out how he learns, and then adjusted his assignments so they fit into his learning style.

    Kudos to you, mama, for sticking up for your kid, for believing in him, and for helping to clear the way to get him taught in a way that works for him. He’ll thrive under your guidance and uncompromising love <3

  • Elizabeth

    Having read this, can I go back 15 hours and get a re-do on (another) epic parenting fail? Our 13 year old is a magical creature, and from day one, she was different. We used to joke that she must be fey, the rare changling that flourished. She twinkled and giggled and questioned and brought so much joy. However, the 1 year old that never stops becomes the 5 year old that never stops, and then school WANTS THEM TO STOP. ADHD has no off switch, and she tries so hard. She meant to turn in the assignment, and then the teacher started talking, and she didn’t want to get behind, and then, and then, and then…

    And then it’s three days later, Momma gets the online grade report, and she’s so sure she turned it in. Except, of course, she didn’t. Cue epic parenting fail – the one where I should have known better, but yelled anyway. Again. That which makes her sparkle can also bring us all to our knees. I just want a teacher to touch her shoulder, remind her as the bell rings to put the paper in the box. Then she’ll sparkle for them as well.

    • Kerry

      I loved your response to the post. I have a fey child too. 🙂 I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the same thing – that if they would just help him with one small reminder, so much heartache could be avoided. The “mold” sucks.


    thank you, thank you, thank you!! This made me cry. I see how mean children are and don’t even think about how mean the teachers are as well. I have a child with special needs and see how the world sees them. I see her as a perfect, beautiful, happy child. Hopefully parents can teach their children to accept and lift up all the children that are not on their level. Love to read everything you write!

  • Andrea

    Thank you from that “low kid”. See I was this kid. I was the one who fell behind for years due to being hospitalized a lot for asthma and having to deal with dyslexia plus other “learning disabilities). I was the kid who had someone come into our classroom twice a week and yell out my name in front of the entire class showing them that I couldn’t keep up… at least not without extra help. I was the kid who had a basement classroom in Junior high because that is where “those” kids went, the only space they had available for us. School was always a challenge and my grades always reflected it. I however, had a great support system at home who always told me I can be whatever I wanted. School never got easier but I think it made me better at adapting to real world life where answers are not always just in a book somewhere. Flash forward 30 years and now I am one of the smartest people in my Marketing Communications Department. I am the one people give the “tech” problems to and ask that I just go “figure” them out. I am the one my Boss is always saying she cannot live without. 🙂 What some people lack in school skills they make up with excessive amounts of street smarts!

  • Jen

    My 10 year old has been having trouble in math for the last couple of years, and his self-esteem has really suffered. Last year, his teacher shrugged and said “well, he was in a class of high achievers.” I cried. This year, he’s in a different school with different teachers, and he and I are hopeful that this year will be his year. I have a follow-up child study meeting this week, and this is exactly what I needed before I walked in. Thank you for sharing this bit of your world. All our kids deserve to have their work on the wall. <3

  • Neena Hanchett

    Oh, and his heart! It is just huge. I love your son with all of my heart. He has taught me much more than I ever learned sitting in class. That goodness for that! A true blessing.

  • Sarah

    As the parent of a “high kid”, thank you for this. While I’ve never wished away another child or thought them to be a bother, it’s so good to hear this from a parent who experiences the other side. Big hugs to all those who go through this with love for your child!

  • Madelief

    Amen mama! I was a “high” kid, and my middle daughter is not. School was not made for her. And it was/is so hard for ME to come to terms with that. And so I fight for her, and let her shine and put her work on the walls at home. Because she is brilliant, the most compassionate and caring person I know. You can trust your newborn or elderly grandmother with her. She doesn’t skip a beat in what is going on around her. And to be quite honest, I think our world is all the greater for having humans like her on it. We should all learn to lead with the heart rather than the head a little more.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Janine

    Thanks for making me fucking CRY already. Clearly you are stalking us and know my kid cause you just wrote about him. (Though you forgot to add the part about him flopping on the floor at school occasionally cause it’s just ALL TOO MUCH for him) Luckily, we too won this year with teachers that give a damn and want to see him succeed, know he is crazy smart and actually LIKE him. He told me the other day when I picked him up from school (cause he’s actually managed to tackle his anxiety dragon enough to ATTEND school this year) that his friends, of which he actually has many, are not only really nice, but SUPPORTIVE as well. I wanted to drive back to school and hug every single one of them. As a mama, I often feel SO ALONE with all of this so thanks for reminding me that I’m not. And neither are you. xxx

  • Clare Parsons

    At least the 21st century will be a little kinder to these kids than they were back in ancient 20th century. I’ve got a short bus kid. He has been writing his novel “The Life of a Gamer” for a couple of years now. It has illustrations wherever he feels it’s appropriate. He can barely read his own handwriting, but I’ve managed to decipher the action somehow. As far as I’m concerned, it should win the Nobel, Freaking, Prize. He had a teacher once in the old Gifted and Talented program who asked, “How did he ever get in here?” I hope the old bat lives long enough to hear about the Nobel Freaking Prize

  • Joodz

    I was just like you in school. I clearly remember being annoyed by the “slow” ones during oral reading. I may have even rolled my 6 year old eyes. Such superiority I had. Is there such a thing as smart privilege?

    I was lucky enough to grow up and have 5 high children. But I made sure they understood that their smartness was a matter of luck and that all kids deserve to learn. I’m pleased to say they turned out much better than I did.

  • julia

    <3 <3 <3 I used to think there were lazy kids and good kids. But then I convinced my best friend to take an honors class with me and she couldn't keep up even though I know she was trying really hard. I realized some kids were built to excel in that environment and others were built to excel in other environments. As a country we haven't done anything to create those other environments or express value in them so we have to do it as parents and feel good about doing things on our own terms. We have to find an activity they love, that comes easy and feels amazing and successful. In elementary school it was safety patrol for my son and now he's busy with a teen ranger program at a nature center. Don't let the "in the box" thinkers get you down. To hell with what they think, define success on your own terms.

  • Jane

    What if I told you that I have a “high” kid and almost every word could be written about her? Especially this part….

    It’s hard to look at your son and know that some teachers will dismiss him as just another problem to be passed on to the next year and each new school year feels like teetering over the edge of a deep chasm waiting to see if we’ll fall, or, which teacher we will have.

    She was viewed as a problem and a hassle and relegated to the back of the room because she “would be just fine” She desperately wanted some validation that her work was worthy of attention.

    Too often, the parents of the “high” and “low” kids are pitted against one another. I think we both want our kids to be able to learn and succeed in school.

  • Daphne


  • Caroline

    As a “high kid” who is also a mother to a “low kid” and who struggles everyday to understand him, how his mind works, and how to make school less onerous for him, I HEAR YOU SISTER!

    Thanks for the post. Will be sharing.

  • Jessica

    I am a teacher reading this on lunch break and a parent who just finished reading an email from my daughter’s teacher about being one of the “low kids.” This was something I needed to read. Thank you for showing up in my Inbox at the perfect time!

  • denise

    I am now a certified dyslexic tutor because of my daughter. I have more to say but it is too much. Just know I’m with you, and thank you.

  • Jean

    This is so rough. Traditional school is not made for everyone, and even less so as time goes on with all the extreme testing and minimal play or following one’s interests. We started our two-year-old in Montessori this year. I have no idea how she will learn in a traditional setting, but I’m starting her off untraditional, until we can’t afford it anymore (which is the worst part, maybe). You’re doing a great job as his advocate. Having sat on the other side of the table as a teacher… I just… sigh.

    • Nancy Williams

      We have some Montessori public schools here in Durham, NC.

  • Jen Page

    Fuck… This is my guy. And on a day when I have hit my low, reduced to tears, I found this. Thank you. Ha the shittiest part is we homeschool. Today my frustration with my myself leaked out. Right in the middle of letter sounds. See my guy is 8 and still can’t tell you the alphabet. He does 6th grade math in his head and is a peripheral learner like your guy. Never “paying attention” but always paying attention. Can recite back to you, word for word, anything you just explained to him all while looking off in the distance and fidgeting. But I digress… Today my frustration with myself, my inability to help him, leaked out. He looked at me horrified. Fuck I feel like I broke him. I know I didn’t but in that moment, tears welled to the brim in his perfect little eyes… I’m a dick! I explained myself. Apologized. Made things right. But today. Today I needed your post. So while you mention try not to be a dick I’m afraid I failed at that. A dick to the most awesomely perfect little man in my life. One day at a time I guess.

    • Jen Page

      And btw I was the school kid. A’s out the ass. Honors classes, majored in chem and math in college, always the deans list. Superior, smug fucking twat I was.

      • MamieJane

        Been there. We also homeschool and one day during math last year, my daughter apologized to ME and said, “I don’t have a very good brain.” That still keeps me up at night sometimes. Im the asshole who drove her to feel that way because I couldn’t believe she still didn’t get it
        Even the most well-Intentioned parent sometimes reacts out of fear….
        I used to be a an honors kid who went on to become a public school teacher. Having a child with a learning disability has opened my eyes to so much.

    • Jessica

      I think homeschooling is really tough especially if you have a child who learns differently from the way you do and from the way you teach. Ultimately, it led me to put our daughter in a Montessori school. And, I am a certified secondary teacher. I didn’t recognize the signs of dyslexia in my own kid for a variety of reasons.

      I hope you will be kind to yourself because, parenting is hard, homeschooling is hard and we cannot be perfect. It’s not possible.

      The best I think we can do as parents is love our kids, do our best, apologize when we don’t, and try again. If we operate with our kids’ best inteerest in mind, then we’re doing it right…even when we fall down.

  • Sue

    These kids are shuffled aside and left to languish on their own SO Often, and what a waste of excellent resources! There are schools that have programs for them,the lucky kids who get to go there do so well and most of them soar. Other schools do not have anything to offer these children.Those unlucky kids get shifted to the sidelines, shamed, made to feel less than good enough, come away from school with numerous scars on their little hearts and a defeated soul. This is Not Acceptable. We must do better…. Thanks for listening.

  • Krista

    I have two boys, one with ADD and one with ADHD…. We live in ontario, canada and have been waiting 5 years(yes for real) for phychological testing so that they can get the help they need!!! And yes they are smart!!! My oldest(ADD) is intent and involved when looking at engines and problems and such, but cant get his work done one time and cant write legibly, because he cant absorb more than one direction at a time! He can read just fine, but can not remember what he read at the beginning by the end of a chapter!! But he is super smart!!! Made a broken flashlight work with nothing but a wire and a bttery!!
    My youngest(adhd) can not sit still, can not pay attention, can not focus on paper!!! But give him a tangled fishingrod that you tried to fix for 3 days… He has it done in minutes!!! He untangles our christmas lights and deco every year lol…. They are SMART!!! Just not conformed to school smart…. Or what they view as smart!!! But they will be the engineers decoding medical mysteries, designing your car engines, or you cell phones!!!
    Fuck the schools… They know shit!!

  • Cat

    I’m with you too. Love and fury. Your son is lucky to have you -you’ll tell him every day that it’s not him that’s broken it’s the system and that means that he’ll actually be okay.

  • Trisha F

    Our son had a nursery teacher at 18 months- 2 years that always told us he had something about him that felt like he was going to do something great someday. Just a spirit about him.

    Then we moved and his new nursery leaders told us he couldn’t pay attention cause he was special needs, they could arrange an appt with a doctor for us, etc.

    It’s interesting how some people perceive some children differently than others. Why does no one remember being a child?! the insecurities you feel, the crazy fun you had with the gravel on the playground. think more like a child and you will get it!

  • Suzi C.

    Wow. This article touched me deeply. Like you, school was easy for me. And like your son, my son goes through the same thing year after year. I feel like this article was meant for me, at a time that I needed it most. So thank you for this.
    God bless,
    Suzi C.

  • Gwynne

    I am weeping. You described my son’s experience to a T. Keep hope alive. After twelve terrible years in school, my son found his professional niche. He has a successful career that lets him exercise his strengths. He owns his own home. He has a lovely wife and happy marriage and a beautiful family. Just because one does not “fit” into our limited antiquated school system does NOT mean you are a “low” human being. Struggling children need to hear that every.single.day.

  • Sara

    Thank you for this. I was one of the “high kids”. My middle son, who is 11, is one of the “low kids”. He has an auditory memory disability, and he’s fortunate because he’s in a school that embraces kids like him. He’ll have the same teacher until he graduates 8th grade. But before this school, he was labeled a troublemaker. Before I got smart and knew my rights, his kindergarten teacher (may she rot in hell) had me convinced that he needed to be medicated. That he was somehow inferior to other students because he couldn’t sit at a desk and copy worksheet answers from an overhead projector (yes, that’s really what they did). And for too long I bought into it. But my child IS smart. He’s caring and empathetic. He’s funny. He has friends and opinions and a temper. He doesn’t fit a mold, and I wouldn’t have him any other way even when that means that school is a struggle.

  • Emmalene

    I want to ask if you have looked into Irlens Syndrome (the coloured glasses) as well? Just reading about the headache side of it and the concentration or should I say distraction.

    This was vary similar to me as a kid but I had no idea, the teacher sat me, at 8yrs old, a desk width from the board as I couldn’t see the writing or concentrate. I was humiliated but lucky for me mum was the art teacher and saw what he did so got my eyes tested….. Ah short sighted, there done fixed right?
    No, I didn’t find out till my boy was behind, at risk with his reading, could concentrate, was SO tired after school he would just collapse on the couch from exhaustion. I was lucky to have a lady in our tiny town who’s daughter was having the same issues and she told me to see an Irlens Specialist.
    So we go see this lovely lady and she is going through all her tests with Lucas and I’m just watching, then he explained something and I saw the exact same thing. She put a coloured overlay sheet on and it went away. I looked at her and she looked at me at the same time was about to explain what was happening and just by the look on my face she said “right so we need an appointment for you yes!!”
    So for me as soon as I had my coloured glassed on I could feel the tension in my head be relieved, I could go 4WDing and not get super car sick, the words stopped moving and I didn’t have to go read them again and again after I had put the book down.
    For my son wearing his glasses meant he came home happy, wasn’t exhausted, the school helps out by putting some of his work on blue paper, the words no longer move, his spelling got better but this year his reading level is at his age level and the list goes on.

    Irlens syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome – words move, go fuzzy, flip, can’t remember what you have just read so study is pointless, motion sickness, headaches, extreme fatigue, the whiteness of a computer screen or paper just messes you up. I can feel the tension in my brain rising as I sit her cause I don’t have my glasses on, naughty I know but they are at work – there is a bit on the web that you can research. I know nothing will fix the learning difficulties we have, I still can not read a book for the enjoyment of reading with my blue lenses but give me a non-fictional book with facts about our universe and i could probably tell you anything within it.

    He may have it he may not but some of the things you have explained cross over into Irlens symptoms, extreme tiredness, concentration difficulties, slowest to read.

    Sorry for the long post but I had to share on this subject, I have read this post 10 times over changed sentences as they sounded funny and checked for mistakes, as I know it drives people nuts LOL, but if there are any you will know why… the impatient dumbass didn’t have he blue lens glasses on.

    I wish you both all the best, its only made worse by teachers who don’t give it the time to understand, I have been lucky this far for my son but next year he’s off to boarding school. My hope is that they are as understanding for his sake.

  • Molly

    This is for your son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbOxNvuwabo#action=share
    From my friend LeDerick, one of my favorite dyslexics (The other person we gotta connect your son with eventually is David Flink at Eye to Eye.. that whole organization is for people with LD/ADHD and it’s fucking amazing). I can’t wait for him to go out into the world and find all his dyslexic people! There are so many and they’re doing awesome stuff.

  • Amber

    Thank you for this. Thank you! I watch my 7 year old son try so hard. I watch him realize that other kids understand what he doesn’t. I watch him become frustrated to the point of tears when sounding out words that he knows he is “supposed” to know. It’s awful to watch your child struggle. Thank you for speaking out for the kids who are “low”.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you. I’m a teacher mom and live this daily. I work with all sorts of kids with all kinds of challenges, but the most devastating one is when they stop believing in themselves. I hope you have an awesome year and that someday your son walks through my classroom door!

  • Sherry Cobb

    All you young mothers with your beautiful children….hang in there. My sons were totally weird, bored in school, viewed as lazy because they didn’t fit into that “normal” category you know, the one where they make the teacher happy. Oldest one skipped the 12th grade, and wound up practicing law at 21….

    Youngest is off the IQ chart….a writer, and a stay at home Dad of three who is so amazing with his children, that they are just beyond exceptional. His wife…..is a teacher.

    The reality of all this is that humans are complicated. They don’t fit into your tidy neat little slots. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness in whatever they endeavor to to. Make them know that each child has talents, that being different is glorious, we desperately need to learn that in our troubled world.

    I’m now 74 and I watch my grandchildren with awe. The world needs the thinkers, inventors, creators …….the weird kids who don’t fit the niche and wind up changing the world. You Moms have the power to teach them that diversity rules!

    • Krista

      Thank you thank you!!!!
      I am a personal support worker, and I see how great “uneducated” people can and have been!!! With my kids in the “low” category, I habe faith that they will show US the way!!! So thank you!! And thank you for lifting us up, and not putting us down! You are a special kind of himan!

  • Michele K

    Thank you for fighting the good fight. My son was diagnosed last year in 2nd grade with Dyslexia. He feels broken, unworthy, different…stupid. I am a special education teacher and this has been a humbling experience being “on the other side of the table”. I would do anything to take away his pain, his daily embarassment. School is not his place to shine but he is so resilient and so compassionate. He will do great things with this experience. I believe it…I have to.

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you~

  • Jess

    I am a teacher. Just saying, your son is my favorite student. We aren’t supposed to have favorites. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. But every year I have him in my class and I adore him and ask him to help me teach because I know his knowledge is vast and interesting to his peers. He is allowed to bring in his projects from home. He is allowed to give me ideas for our next projects in class. When the year ends, I know that I will see him again in a new student who may not feel like he is amazing, but together, we will discover just how amazing he really is. Thanks for raising my favorite student. Thanks for knowing he is amazing.

  • Maree

    I was one of the lucky ‘Smart’ kids and ended up with a child who struggled from the beginning. All through school we didn’t realise but she was missing an important part of her brain, the corpus callosum, and that affected her learning. Get an MRI to make sure that there is no physical cause. We were told she wouldn’t read and write. At 26 she is just beginning University. It takes a long long time but that’s how she does it. The good people have patience and plenty of skill and know when she is ready for the next step. There are no deadlines just successes to build onto.

  • Annemieke

    Thank you.

  • scar

    Yes. This.

    I was one of the “high kids” too, but my friend’s brother was treated like crap for not being able to read or write fully by the time he was about 12. He was put in all the “low” classes and the teachers seemed to have completely given up on him. It felt like they were just babysitting him through school, while I was being given all the support and extra homework I wanted.

    Yet my friend’s brother could build moving robots from random parts he found lying around in the garage. He could look at a piece of machinery and work out how it was broken. He could take apart a computer and rebuild a better version of it without ever reading a manual.

    But because I was super good at reading, and not super good at putting things together instead, I was somehow treated like I had more potential. It pissed me off at the time and it still pisses me off now.

    We really need to change the whole education thing to make it work for everybody. Somehow.

  • Marie

    From a teacher’s perspective; I have plenty of “low kids” in my classes. I do not dislike them. I have seen how brilliant many of them can be at things other than school work. They do, however, often wind up in trouble more often than I’d like. It breaks my heart. I don’t want to have to send them out of the class, or write a note home, or keep them after class. I especially hate it when they get a low grade on something and they look so dejected. I have a student who went from getting 20%-30% on assignments last year, to getting 50-60% on things this year. I think this is a HUGE improvement, and have told him so multiple times. However, he still feels he is not good enough. He wants to get the high marks. I can’t take that frustration away for him; I can only help him work through it and let him know that the improvement he is made IS astounding, even if he doesn’t believe it yet himself.

    It is hard. A lot of the “lower-ability” (classroom wise) kids use avoidance tactics when it comes to school work. They may not realize they are doing it, but if they find the work difficult or uninteresting, they react by fidgiting, getting up out of their seat, goofing around, talking, etc, etc, etc. Some of them may even cause major problems such as starting a fight, grappling with another student, throwing something, and so on. It can be like having a little tornado in your class.

    As for all those annoying assessments, they are there so that 1) teachers know the best strategy to help that student and 2) so that the school has paperwork to back up any support they might need. The sad reality about schools is that they are, at the end of the day, bureaucracies. In order to be fair to all, we have to ensure that we are not giving special treatment to kids “just because”. There has to be paperwork to back it up. (PS – we always know when the kids need extra help and try to give it anyway, we just can’t always do it “officially” if there isn’t paperwork – like on exams, particularly state or nationally regulated ones).

    I wish there were better ways. I wish we didn’t have 25-30 kids crammed into a class, all expected to learn the same material in the same amount of time. I wish we could spend half the day with them running around outside or doing hands-on things. I wish I didn’t have to force them to write notes, but that is my job. I have to make something they inherently dislike as interesting and engaging as possible, while maintaining a calm and safe learning environment. There are always going to be subjects that are hard and work that is kind of boring or difficult, but we have to do something if one kid is disrupting the learning of others, even if we are on their side. We have to be fair and consistent, and be SEEN as being fair and consistent so that every child knows the boundaries and wehre they stand. Kids need to find strategies to help them cope when they feel tired or overwhelmed or find things difficult that don’t involve interrupting the learning of others. That is part of the deal of going to school, of later getting a job, and of living in society. It may take years and years, but we will get them there.

    As for the “high flyers” – well, I don’t spend all that much time with them, actually. I don’t need to, because they don’t need me. They can do it on their own. They could probably do it even if I wasn’t in the room. Yes, they get academic awards and such from school. There isn’t much I can do about that. We can only encourage kids to find what they excel at, and applaud them for that.

  • Peggy

    Yeah, I have a dyslexic son. He is all that and so much more. It’s heartbreaking. One of my 4 greatest achievements. A blessing to all who really take the time to know him. A suicide risk.

  • Michelle Albright-Peters

    Sadly, school isn’t for the high kids either. The high kids typically aren’t the high achievers, those kids are in the sweet spot of bright and challenged. The high kids are as forgotten as the low kids snd often also getting in trouble, doing the fidgeting and being the class clown. Oh and the added bonus of everyone’s attitude that those kids will be ok no matter what or even that they need to be brought down just a notch.

    It’s excruciating as a parent to know your child’s needs aren’t being met, just know it’s at both ends of the spectrum.

  • British American

    Yes! I was the perfect smart child in school. My daughter, our first born, is the same. She learnt to read at home with my help at age 4.

    Then there’s my son, who is 8 and in 3rd grade. He has dyslexia. Not so severely that the school noticed, but I knew at the beginning of 1st grade. This spring we got him a private diagnosis. He’s been in Barton tutoring for over a year too. He brought his spelling words home yesterday for the first time. I guess the group names have fooled him, because he told me he’s in the 2nd hardest group. I’m thinking maybe the 2nd easiest! He told me that they’re learning rows & columns in math and he can’t keep which is the rows and which are the columns straight – since dyslexia affects directionality too.

    It does give me more empathy to the other low kids in his grade.

  • Angela

    Yes. This is my life. School was my salvation…. now I have two “low-kids”……Fight fight fight for those beautiful spirits!

  • Tim

    Oh, yes. My wife and I were the epitome of “high kids.” Doing well in school was our refuge, the place we could excel. For my oldest, it was a prison exactly as you described. Between his anxiety and sonic over sensitivity, there were times he couldn’t stop himself from fleeing the classroom. Fight or flight was engaged. It was the type of disruption that even trained special ed teachers would grow frustrated with, because it didn’t follow the type of pattern they were used to. Meanwhile, he’s trying his absolute hardest, coming home exhausted from keeping it together and still falling short of expectations. And he didn’t miss that he was treated differently. What 6 or 7 year old should be internalizing these kinds of issues? It was brutal on him. He still can’t walk into a school building without major anxiety.

  • Nikki

    I was forced to sit in the back because my grades were below average. One teacher even made sure that the rest of the class knew why I and a couple of others had to sit in the back. Because we weren’t as smart, she said. Turns out, I have the brain of an entrepreneur, read- I like to do a lot of different things and I’m pretty good at a few of them. I’m pretty sure I’m way happier than that old bag ever was. I also had to homeschool my kid because the school that labeled her “gifted” throughout most of her elementary school years, turned on her when she began failing her high school years. Not because she wasn’t smart, but because she wasn’t their kind of smart. Sending grace and peace to you and your family.

  • K

    You know those “interlopers” are just going to end up being the CEOs of the companies the “perfect kids” work at. Being a perfect student in our school system is not a good thing, it just means you’re more convenient for the adults to deal with.

  • Megan

    Amazing! Momma thank you for sharing your heart! It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job of advocating for your child. I was the “low kid” growing up. After teaching and opening up my own tutoring center I have realized I didn’t fit into “school.” I wish that I could rewind to my early elementary years and go through tutoring for Dyslexia. I know it would have changed my school career. All though as a teacher and now business owner I’m thankful for my own experience because I can relate easily to the “low kids.” I would encourage any mommas to seek out tutors who focus on different learning styles! We see grade changing results in our center. My favorite part about it is when a parent says “my child chose to pick up a book and it read it by themselves!” Please let me know if I can be of any support to you mommas!

  • Tamara Sakuda

    Thanks so much!! As a sped teacher — I don’t like IEP meetings — I hate that we have to gather around a table and discuss all the things a student is not good at! I want to celebrate what they can to — how they think — how students who struggle will still come to school every damn day to try harder and I will be right there beside them — in the trenches helping them realize just how amazing they are. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your post!!

  • Lynn Peloquin

    We are two years into my son’s dyslexia diagnosis. He was recently evaluated by local school special services who told us that he has no short or long term memory so it was not worth their time to provide any accommodations for him! We walked out of the meeting feeling like they wanted to throw our son away BUT we know God has more in store for him! He does have short & long term memory just not what they were looking for. He has watched my husband take a tire off to replace & alert him to a step he missed. He works harder than 90% of most men I know and he is 10 years old. He has a twin brother so he is faced DAILY with how easy school can be but that it isn’t for him. He attends a private school who has many accommodations for him along with a volunteer who is a reading interventionist. He will read out loud in front of his class with no problem even though it may take him twice as long with lots of mistakes! He knows that EVERYONE has something about themselves that isn’t perfect. He just happens to face his imperfection every day right now. He also knows that he has a TON of people on his side that will help him and never ridicule him. I have explained that God never gives us more than we can handle & that faith has helped him many, many times! Stay strong!!

  • Bronwyn

    I just read your blog and it all back. My son is now 28 years old and is a happy, healthy and productive member of society. I look back to his elementary and high school days and I wonder how as a family we ever got through it. His school years were very painful, hurtful and frustrating having a learning disability and not being able to have it diagnosed until he was in grade 8. Though he could not spell and still has much difficulty, he developed coping skills to get through school and I know he hated every minute being there. He was the kid who always got into trouble during class because he was so frustrated. Upon graduating high school his parting words were that he would never return to school again. Fast forward and he is now completing a Mobile Crane Operator apprenticeship. When ever I need inspiration I just look at my son and recall the his journey and the man he has become.

  • Jessica

    Oh. Right in the heart. I have twin boys just started kindergarten and I can see it already. The one that takes after me, he’s sees something learns it and can reproduce it all while winking and twinkling and being told he’s “super cute”. He is. And then my precious (my favorite, shhh) who is smart and cuddly and knows how planes operate. And has announced that when he grows up he will fly corsairs (not just any airplane). But I show him the letter “A” for example. Say “A”. Say Apple. And then ask him what letter it is— nothing he’s got nothing. but performance anxiety that’s destroying him slowly over time. It’s sad and frustrating and is going to require so much from the rest of his family (as he deserves) to get him into that airplane cockpit if it’s still what he wants.

  • Carrie

    My son is on the autism spectrum. This really resonated with me. Thank you.

  • Jennifer

    This. This made me cry. I am a “high” kid with a learning disability no one diagnosed until I was in college. I have three kids who are also wildly intelligent who have learning disabilities but never got the chance to shine because our school systems are broken. Kids who tested in the genius range for IQ but I had to fight for every accommodation for them because of that. If they could read so well, why couldn’t she do the math? Why couldn’t she sit still? Why didn’t anyone do the homework? or pass the tests? and my beautiful daughter who spent so much time in and out of hospitals trying not to die but they wanted her to complete 57 days of school work in 3 weeks.We finally graduated. All three of them. And one chose to go to college. The other two are so fed up with school they didn’t want to bother, even knowing what that means for job prospects.

    I have learned more about the world from my kids than I ever did just living. They have turned all my prejudices upside down, exposed all my biases and shown me how narrow I actually am. You keep fighting for that sweet little boy and hold him in your lap as long as he will let you. He needs it, and I think, so do you.

  • Sarah

    I don’t know if this is available where you live, or feasible with your busy lives, but your son might really enjoy being on a robotics team. I coach a high school robotics team, and I’ve seen plenty of kids like Rocket (who love machines and fixing things, but don’t fit the mold of our school systems) take to robotics like fish to water, and thrive on being part of a team that values them. FIRST, the organization that runs our competitions, also has programs for middle and elementary school.

  • alicia

    We had a teacher who only cared about the achievers. Thankfully, within our very own little school, I could switch my daughter to a teacher that has deep rooted beliefs that every child has differences, and she takes it all in stride, even intuitively avoiding the “shame game.” (In a Montessori, you are with a teacher for 3 years.) I struggled with the idea of switching, but it was the best thing we did. Make sure your child has an IEP, even if you don’t want them pulled out of class for special services.

  • Susan

    Great post and I totally agree BUT if you want to be taken seriously, clean up the language. I am one southern lady who doesn’t think this topic deserves to read like a bad Hollywood movie script. Decent people in this part of the country don’t use the F word.

    • Sherry

      That’s what you gleaned from all of this? There must be an incredible amount of glorious literature that you’ve passed up because you consider yourself to be so proper.

      I have a solution…don’t read these blogs either. Save your smug attitude for those “decent people” and spare the rest of us. The

    • Sara

      Sure we do. Fuck Fuckity Fuckballs!

      • Krista

        These words are used to describe the altitude of feelings and OPINION!!!! Your comment pisses me right the FUCK off!!! I am a very “good” person and respectful, and I care for our elderly AND Im a nursing student… oh, and a mom of 4 (when I was out of wedlock, like that one?) and guess what…. I fucking curse and use “those” words…. if your too good for true feelings and words… then maybe you should stay in your cozy, proper little bubble!!! Fuck, fuckin, fuckery, fuckity fuck… lmao

  • Jessica

    My hope in posting this is to let you know that there are many teachers who really DO want to help your kids. Who really are looking to create opportunities for all kids to shine in the classroom. Who are giving time for kids to think about it. Who are taking the shame out of making mistakes. Who are celebrating learning from not answering “correctly” the first time. Who are operating from a place of love and concern for students’ well being. Who are excited about increasing their engagement game in the classroom and getting kids excited about learning.

    I know because I have attended many seminars where this type of thinking and behavior is taught to certified teachers who are there in the trenches with your kids. And they are from all different districts in my area. These seminars are travelling all over the country teaching these techniques to teachers who are taking them back. Is it everywhere, no, but there is enough of it out there to show me that the desire to improve kids’ experience is there.

  • Alissa

    I hope you receive my post–my son IS your son. For so long, no one could put their finger on his issues. He began to read with the Barton’s program. When he first learned to read–I would get mad at him because he would “play around” with reading and be silly-what I didn’t know is that he WAS trying and compensating. But then he made it to 4th grade and LOVED science. He knew so many things because he WAS learning and listening in school. He couldn’t find the words at the front of the class either. But he could tell you all about animals and their species and plants! Parents were so impressed by the “slow” kid! He couldn’t recite the “rules” of the Barton’s reading rules so his Barton tutor kept him reviewing the same book over and over–slowing him down. I placed him with another Barton’s tutor that recognized my son could use the rules, but not recite them. She recognized how smart he was by what he shared and talked about. She saw his potential and encouraged me. One Barton’s tutor was too conservative and apprehensive–the other gave him freedom and he ran with it! At the end of 6th grade when he was headed to Jr. High I had him tested. I’ve never seen the Ed. Psych so excited. The panel was almost bursting. Come to find out my son was a frick’n genious–but all this time he and I both were made to feel like he was a bother in the classroom. He was so smart–but his PROCESSING SPEED was in the bottom 5%!!!!!! With his processing speed so slow–it impacted everything in school to his speech and is why he gets tongue tied. WOW!! Not even the 1st Barton’s tutor “got it!” Don’t stop looking for answers–the answers ARE out there!! We couldn’t see the answers when he was young because low scores with processing speeds meant so many different things–when he was in 6th grade he was at opposite ends of the spectrum–hugely brite but incredibly slow. My son doesn’t fit in a classroom– though he tries. He’s light years ahead of the common student and fits together what he learns from his classrooms to the world–this doesn’t happen for most kids until college. Don’t give up!! Don’t feel discouraged–tho educators will make you feel like you should. Don’t accept that your son isn’t part of the classroom. Your son is blessed! He sees the world in a way far different from anyone else–he’s ahead of his peers!! YOU go and find what is best for him and don’t be afraid!! All brains don’t all fit into a bell shaped curve–outliers are only outliers for a season. Eventually, when brains are done growing–it all evens out. What’s truly sad is the time lost having kids think they are less than their peer group. I think it’s horrible that the 1st 18yrs of a kids life is spent struggling to fit in–when in reality after they are out of school fitting in becomes so unimportant. I can only wonder–is “fitting in” really as important as it seems?

  • Meghan

    I am a school psychologist and end up having to list those percentile ranks, standard scores, and classification ranges that pain so many of us. I include parent concerns, areas of personal strength when they are reported by the parent or student (playing multiple instruments, fixing engines, etc), and as many positives as a I can. I note that these tests do not capture everything that there is to a child. Any advice on how to make this information sting less? Thank you. Great read.

  • Susan

    I read your post from Susan Barton’s newsletter and it made me tear up thinking that you were writing about my kiddo. I have been a child psychologist for 20 years and (having always been a “high” kid) even my education and work with LD kids never could have prepared me for the pain and heartache of having a severely dyslexic son – reading, writing, and math are huge struggles. At age 11 in 6th grade he’s in the “low” classes but he finally has a bright light at school because he can play drums as well as do the agricultural/farming elective which he loves. He’s a builder, a fixer, a problem solver, a musician. He prays to God to heal his brain and if asked if he had one wish what would he wish for? “To be able to read like normal kids.” I have a PhD and specialize with children and yet I can still be brought to tears in an IEP meeting. It’s excruciating. Once an elementary teacher commented about his dyslexia saying “Oh, he’ll be able to work a trade or maybe go to community college.” I told her, “Oh, I’m not worried about him getting a job after high school. He’ll be just fine. I’m concerned about him surviving school with his self-esteem intact!” I teach child psychology and I emphasize to these psychology majors to be mindful not to boil kids down to numbers or diagnoses. I’m going to read your post in class tomorrow. Thanks for making a difference!

  • Kris

    This article brought tears to my eyes. This is exactly how I’m feeling. My daughter struggles everyday to keep up with her classmates. Some days are rougher than others. I’m not dyslexic and I don’t know how it feels, but I have a daughter who amazes me everyday with her strength to get up and give her all. She’s a true warrior. She’s just getting used to the ear reading on Learning Ally, but it’s giving her freedom to keep up with her friends. She loves art and she loves to draw and color while listening to her books. We found that she’s got a passion for swimming, so we signed her up for our local swim club and she loves swimming and competing. This has given her a boost in her confidence that gets tested daily at school. I’m glad she has found a way to smile again.

  • Elaine

    I want to connect with you on this, I really do. I despair over those bell curves too only my son’s results don’t state that he is highly intelligent. They tell me he is borderline mentally retarded. There is no place for him. He doesn’t have down syndrome or dyslexia or even adhd. There is no community to rally around us, no organization to look to for information. My son has low intelligence and he knows it. He struggles and he’s depressed and they make fun of him and it breaks my fucking heart.

    • Sue

      Oh Elaine… I am heartbroken for your son, I don’t have any advice, I don’t know what to suggest, and I don’t know you at all, but I do care about your boy. I am so sorry you have not found any help, and I unfortunately don’t know anything that will help you either, but I care about you and I care about your son and I hope there is someone who reads this who HAS the means to guide you so you can get help for him. In the meantime, I send you and your child warm hugs and hope for the best for you both.

  • Isabel

    Thank you for this article. I myself never had problems in school. I was in the Gifted and Talented program. I never had to try very hard because it was all very easy for me. I never expected to have a child that would have a learning disability and it threw me for a loop. Before I knew that she had a learning disability I could not understand why she wasn’t “getting it”. I still beat myself up when I think of how impatient I would get with her and how I would ask her – how can you not remember?! I had to learn patience and I had to learn how to advocate for my child and teach her to advocate for herself. She is 14 and she still struggles, especially with math, but she is the kindest child you will ever know. She is a cool kid and I wouldn’t change her for anything. 🙂