Dyslexia – 44% verses 100%
It has been a while since I blogged – the boy is now 14 and beginning his GCSE journey. If I thought it was challenging before I think it was really just the calm before the storm!
Parenting any child is hard, but parenting a child with dyslexia can lead to additional challenges.
In my experience one of the hardest things I have found to balance regarding his education, is my child’s expectations, against my expectations, against school expectations and peer pressure!
This week he has undertaken end of module tests, just routine run of the mill papers, to set a base line for his progress in each subject. As an ex teacher, I don’t have a problem with this testing, it is not pressure driven. It is simply a way of measuring progress and ensuring children are where we think they are and identifying any gaps or children who may need additional support.
Of course with any conscientious child any test may bring additional stress and pressure but for any children with any additional learning needs and specifically dyslexia – which is not always obvious, exams are always stressful, simply because exams do not see us perform at our best… a written exam can never show truly what we understand for many reasons… however exams are currently a way of life and how he is going to be measured in 18 months’ time, so a fairly necessary thing to do is practise in these conditions! I digress – I could write a whole blog on exams but today I want to focus on 44%!
The tests were happening across the week and on Tuesday the first score came in… 44%. I thought this was pretty impressive. He however had taken note of what others had got, looking over their shoulders at their scores. 60%, 67%, 88% 70%. note no one had 100%!
He had scored 44% in one of his most enjoyable subjects and a subject he hopes to gain a GCSE in. Basically a subject that matters to him personally and without any discussion with anyone, 44% had led to him feeling inadequate and unintelligent and a conversation between he and I that started with…
‘Mum today I realised I will never be intelligent. I will never be as clever as other people.’
This comment hurt my heart a bit! It hurt my heart for lots of reasons! One being the fact he has lost belief in himself and felt his 44% percent, which I know he would have bust a gut for, in his eyes was not good enough. What was interesting was no one at any point had told him it was a low score or he could have done better. It was his perception and a pressure he was placing on himself. Another reason it hurt was for him 44% is a brilliant start! I have not got low expectations, but given how hard he finds it to get ideas onto paper, his writing speed, spelling and reading ability, his thinking and processing speed and his weak working memory, 44% unaided is like a triple A *!
This comment regarding intelligence obviously led to a discussion about how he was feeling, because feelings whether we agree with them or can empathise with them or not are always valid to the person feeling them and me telling him 44% is brilliant wasn’t necessarily going to cut it for where he was right then! It did lead to me quickly realising I needed to do with him what I do with the children I work with!
To try and manage everyone’s expectations and to safe guard self-esteem and confidence I feel it is important to set out own goals. When I work with students on my coaching programmes we talk about having a clear vision of what WE want to achieve and where WE want to be. For many people they are not A star students, in fact scientifically if you look at the bell of distribution only a small percentage of people are likely to gain all As! The bulk of people will fall in the middle and score averagely. What is wrong with Average, you can still do extraordinary things with average scores!
When working with students individually or in small groups we go through every subject and look realistically and what they would like to gain in it, and also the importance in terms of whether they need it to make their next step in education. This helps them manage their own expectations and makes them feel more in control of their learning journey. As well as assist them in how to prioritise revision. If I had done this 25 years ago when I was studying for GCSEs this is what my priorities would have looked like!
It is important to have in mind roughly what you hope to study next – so if you know you want to do A Levels, what GCSE grades do you need to access these? If you hope to study a vocational course at the college, what grades do you need to access that? If you know it is likely you will need to retake something – this is totally okay, but where will you do that and how will it affect where you want to go next? Options are endless, but be in control of them… and I can guarantee you do not need 10 GCSEs at 100% to go to university, or to be successful!
Let’s take a marathon analogy… 100s of people run marathons, but only a small percentage of people have the potential to win… infact only 1 will win… does this mean everyone else has failed? Does this mean that the rest of the people are second rate? There will be people in the marathon that will have been aiming to beat personal bests – of all times. There will be people in the marathon who will have raised hundreds of pounds for charity and achieved something they never thought possible simply by crossing the line. this for them is winning!
The thing is, I think society these days, the education system and possibly social media, sees people constantly climbing to be the best. Best is defined by measuring success in As and by doing things the quickest, or earning the most money. This creates a hierarchical view and leads to people potentially knocking people out of the way to get there, and leads to the view that to finish first, or to gain the highest score equals THE BEST! It also leads to people who can’t do things quickly, or are not A* students feeling their contributions are not as valid.
My message is this… what makes you the best you can be? What scores would you be happy with? What scores do you actually need in which subjects to access your next step in learning? What average scores are going to enable you to do extraordinary things in your field of expertise?
My job as a parent and specialist teacher is to empower my children to negotiate their way through the expectations of society and realign them. To enable my children to shine in areas they show natural aptitude and to support them in areas they need, so they can access courses, and jobs that enable them to shine!
44% is an awesome starting point. 44% is a personal best. 44% has seen you knock down some personal barriers and break through to a new level! 44% rocks on this occasion! 44% should make you proud not ashamed!
Let’s flip 44% on its head… 44% what a great start given the barriers you are facing! 44% is likely to give you the score you need in that subject to access the next step…
JO is an advocate for dyslexic and delivers training, assessment and specialist teaching across England.
Her successful memoir book about living with undiagnosed dyslexia, ‘Don’t forget to smile,’ is available on Amazon.
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more info can be found on http://www.anotherwayround.co.uk
Some more examples of how students have prioritised! Remember you need to prioritise balancing your strengths and interests alongside expectations of what you hope to study next!
Priority 1 Priority 2 Priority 3
Priority 1 Priority 2 Priority 3