Systems don’t always work. And conformity shouldn’t necessarily be the answer.
One thing about recalling past memories is you eventually find patterns or develop a sense of understanding that you couldn’t back then in the moment. It’s how we grow and learn to better ourselves.
Looking back on my school years, I can clearly see where I needed help, and it wasn’t just the short T-rex arms. I’m talking more about the rigid system. The seven/eight-hour, five days a week with only thirty minutes for lunch. Technically, ten to fifteen minutes because half of that time is spent waiting in line.
And yes, I’m aware that schedule applies to the workforce too but those aren’t always feasible for people. Disabled or not. It’s long hours and days which eventually take a toll on people.
I make a point to discuss college because I was physically capable of keeping up since that schedule is more flexible and better suited to fit my own needs. As for grade school, I want to talk about things I wished I had control over and what I could’ve learned sooner that would’ve helped earlier on.
Before diving into this, I want to note that due to certain circumstances some things can’t just be changed such as the topic in this next section, but I still think it’s important to at least discuss. Mostly because we’re humans, not machines, and yet it feels like we’re trained to be the latter, but I digress. The main point for this post is just to provide my personal thoughts and experiences as a disabled person on what school was like for me growing up.
Tight, Jam-Packed Schedules
I’ll be honest, I never liked this type of schedule simply because of how extensive it is. By the end of the day, I was physically and mentally exhausted. Add in learning seven different subjects, usually taught at a fast pace due to taking advanced courses, and it felt like an overload in my head.
While I was getting good grades in my classes, I sometimes had a hard time retaining information for longer than a school year. So much information is thrown at you so fast that you have to cram everything in your brain only to toss some of it out by the next year. At least for me that’s what I was doing.
After every summer break, I had to keep important learning information shoved in the back of my head where storage is located and hope there was room for the new stuff. I don’t have any memory issues, there’s just a lot I had to learn and remember that stuff inevitably just got buried.
Not to mention, my bathroom breaks took longer because of the hoyer lift. So time is also lost there too. And because I had to go twice during the day, I’d be cutting into two classes, which resulted in missing almost half of the lesson anyway. Even if I went quickly, it still ate up time. And there was nothing I could do about it, especially when it came time to paying my monthly bills.
I also want to add that I don’t agree with limiting students’ bathroom breaks or things like that in general. I understand lessons are important, but so is taking care of bodily needs. Just needed to put that out there.
Standard vs. Advanced Classes
As a short disclaimer, I’m not comparing these two options as a way to uplift one compared to the other nor do I mean to sound demeaning when I say standard or regular classes. Choosing advanced courses doesn’t inherently make someone smarter compared to anyone else, I just need to make that clear. I was good at memorization and cramming when necessary, but some information has been lost to the wind overtime.
Starting off, yes, I’m aware that part of my struggle comes with taking advanced classes. They warn everyone about it each year. I only began taking those classes because when I was in the regular classes, I wasn’t learning much due to students being disruptive amongst other contributing factors. That’s why the school suggested I switch to all advanced courses, so I could actually learn and because they knew I could excel there.
Again, before I go further into my main point, I just need to state that this shouldn’t be the case. I chose advanced classes, not because I wanted a challenge, but because I wanted to learn without disruptions, otherwise I couldn’t focus or understand. But this goes further than what I’m discussing here and into the school system overall and perhaps even parenting to an extent.
Okay, returning to the part I want to focus on.
I don’t regret taking those harder classes, but it was still draining and stressful. College courses were also difficult, yet at the same time I could manage my workload better because of using a different scheduling system, which I will discuss later.
Granted there were some years where I didn’t accumulate much, but that fell more on the classroom environment. I’ve had two teachers who just didn’t teach us. I mean, they tried.
The one in fourth grade just liked to talk a lot. Mostly about their personal life, telling us stories and things that happened to them. And the class liked it because if you got them talking (which wasn’t hard), then we didn’t have to learn the lesson for that day. Well, the teacher would scramble at the last minute when class was almost over but still, a lot didn’t get done. And to a kid, it was great, because why work when you could have story time instead? We weren’t thinking about future consequences or anything. But it was like free time in class those days until it came to doing our homework that night.
That’s when things started to become an issue with my foundation for math. It really fell apart in sixth grade with my math teacher. While they were nice and seemed to enjoy teaching, most of the kids in class were disruptive and never bothered to pay attention, which meant the teacher had to keep stopping and try reigning them in. Each and every time.
Needless to say, it was a battle to get through a single topic. Plus, this teacher was having problems amongst other things going on at home and they struggled some days. I felt bad for them, but how much can a sixth grader actually do to help? Besides being quiet and doing my work, not a lot.
It was a very difficult time because that was my only nonadvanced class and yet, it became my hardest one. By the time I had to do homework, I was lost because we weren’t taught anything that day. The lesson was incomplete, and we had to try solving a bunch of problems with limited information. And it sucked.
For many nights, I’d be slumped over asleep on top of my textbook, drooling on my homework because I was exhausted. By the time school was finished, I’d have physical therapy twice a week, and have to come home, eat then bathe before tackling a bunch of assignments due the next day.
Now, this is where my parents would remind me, I had specific privileges where I could ask for extensions or lighter workloads due to my disability. But I never used them. I couldn’t.
I was too scared of being judged by other students and also dealt with the incessant need to prove that I was capable of keeping up with the “normal” kids. It’s more pressure I put on myself, but even without any extra accessibility, other students also struggled with their courseload because they weren’t learning either in those math classes.
Granted this was probably a school district issue because in eighth grade advanced Pre-Algebra, our teacher gave us worksheets with basic math questions about fractions, decimal placements, percentages, etc. and the results weren’t great. Maybe a third or more, perhaps half, bombed those assignments. And these students weren’t all in the same horrid math classes I had.
But it put things into perspective, plus I felt a bit better knowing I wasn’t the only one having problems with simple math. We were struggling and it only got harder getting to the more complex subjects.
Let me emphasize that the eighth grade class was an advanced math course. So even students there were having issues. But my overall point here is I only chose these advanced courses because I could at least concentrate and learn without interruptions from misbehaving students.
This isn’t to say all standard classes would always be disruptive, there would just be more instances. Because in some cases, even students in the advanced classes could be pretty distracting, just not as much.
Yes, this is quite a jump but there’s a point. And if anything, this is easier to implement compared to changing an entire school’s hourly schedule.
Colors. This was a big thing for me. It took me until my third year of high school to realize I needed colors to help me study and understand what I was learning. My Pre-AP Pre-Calculus teacher, an absolutely wonderful person who really worked with me a lot after school, was the one that helped set off the light bulb in my head. During their lessons, they used markers in different colors. Even though it was a math class, they were fine with us taking notes in whatever way worked best for us. And that’s when I started writing with multiple pens.
It was like finding a magic key and unlocking a hidden secret in my mind. From then on, I implemented that tactic to all my notetaking which was so helpful by the time I got to college because I actually had a system that worked.
I started with black for headlines and main topic points
- Followed by blue for subtopics
- Then used purple for smaller bullet points
- And pink for extra tidbits/next bullet points
- Then used purple for smaller bullet points
Red was for important information to keep in mind
On a side note, I realize I’m basically just writing the bi-flag upside down.
This is how most of my notes look in almost every class. Although Accounting I was like a rainbow. I showed up to my exams with a pencil case filled with colorful pens and highlighters because there were a bunch of pieces to remember in that puzzle. But it worked and I did well overall.
It just sucks that it took until the end of high school to figure out where I was going wrong. Because early on in elementary school, we were taught to only use pencils. Nothing else. I get it, kids will make mistakes a lot and they need to be able to erase and fix them. In junior high, I had some teachers wanting us to write in black or blue ink because they had a hard time seeing our work done in pencil. So we upgraded to pens, but I was still locked into one color.
I can understand wanting homework, assignments, and tests in specific ways but I’m pretty certain some teachers would’ve also reprimanded me for trying to take notes with rainbow colors. Maybe it would’ve been a mess anyway because I might not have found any patterns to follow. Or perhaps, all that practicing would’ve helped me figure out my own patterns sooner.
Who knows? But at least I could’ve had the capability of trying.
This is how I was given the opportunity to explore my options and decide how I wanted to go about studying as well as schedule my classes to best fit my needs. Yes, the workload was still a lot, and it was difficult at times, but I felt more confident in myself each semester.
I learned I worked best by taking morning classes, then breaking for lunch and restroom needs before having another class or two to finish the day off. Having only morning classes were preferred overall because I liked having the rest of the afternoon/evening for myself, so those specific days were the best.
Too many afternoon classes weren’t for me because I got tired. At that point, my brain automatically winds down, probably because that’s what I was used to in grade school.
But I really enjoyed those every other day schedules where I could fluctuate between the Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday classes. I didn’t have to worry about homework being due the next day, therefore giving me time to thoroughly work on it.
Taking college courses was fun, albeit yes still rather stressful, but so much more manageable than what I was used to previously.
And please note that I’m not pushing people to further their education. College or other types of courses aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay. That’s not what this post is about. I just had the realization that I had trouble learning and figured out where I could’ve benefited from having certain things changed. It got me thinking and I wanted to write out my thoughts.
Overall, I mostly wish we were given the tools or opportunities to practice finding ways that work for us earlier on, during grade school or junior high, so we can get in touch with ourselves. Find those hidden secrets that could make things easier before we’re overwhelmed when we get to more advanced learning.
I also know that there are varying factors out of our control. We can’t change an entire school district’s scheduling system and having multiple types of classes to choose from isn’t always an option either. That’s more than simply being able to try new things until we find what works best for us. But at the very least, we can see where some problems may lie and understand how they affect us. Hence, why I suddenly felt the strong urge to jot this down.
And another point to add, I do feel for those who have had to switch to online or virtual learning as a result of the pandemic. For some it might be better overall and they’re able to study much easier, which is great! If this method works, I’m glad.
But for those who prefer or need to be in a physical classroom, but can’t be due to current circumstances, I hope they’re managing. The few times I did online classes in college, I made it work, but those were also elective courses thankfully. Math would not have been possible, especially in a grade school setting. At least colleges are somewhat better organized with scheduling classes. So I can imagine what current students are facing and I wish the best for them.
Did your schools ever have schedules similar to college? Or is there something you wished you could’ve learned sooner that would’ve made studying/learning easier? Comment down below.
On a side note, I just want to say thank you again for continuing to read my work and random adventures that I share on here. Even if I’m not always able to be active, it still means a lot. Whether you’re celebrating any holidays this week, I hope you have a wonderful week regardless. ~So Says The Disabled Dryad~
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