How To Succeed In School With A Lot Of Trying

I’m a proud father today-my 17-year old son Niot received a 97 on one of his bagrut (national high school graduation) exams-a particularly hard one. Any father would be proud of such a high mark, but I have cause to be more proud than most. Just a few years ago, most of the teachers who knew Niot doubted he’d be able to earn a diploma. We, his parents, doubted it, too. But now we can send out an announcement (we’re debating if we want to follow what a friend did and order some through Jostens, or simply do so online) to our friends and families about how well he’s done!

In elementary school, Niot had trouble sitting still in class. He didn’t seem to “get” many of the lessons. Frustrated and bored, he developed anti-social behaviors, including fierce outbursts of anger and sometimes violence. The teachers, counselors, and administrators at his school did their best, but were largely at a loss for how to handle him. Ilana and I were as well. Luckily there are schools, similar to this PreK-12 Independent School in Raleigh, that know how to help their students giving them the much-needed attention they may need and struggle to obtain.

After seeking outside advice, we had Niot tested for learning disabilities. The tests showed what we’d sensed all along. The boy was not stupid or dim-minded. He was bright, but his mind didn’t work the way the standard curriculum and teaching procedures expected them to work.

By the time we had learned all this, Niot was already alienated and frustrated from school. We began to send him to tutors specially trained to teach children with learning disabilities (at our own expense, see my previous post “What Education Costs Us”), but having been totally turned off to school and being convinced by the negative reactions he’d been getting that he was incapable, he made little progress.

When it came time for him to enter junior high school, we were fortunate to find a place where the teaching staff was well-acquainted with how to teach such children, and who were sure that Niot could succeed.

It was a long progress, with twists and turns, steps forward and steps back. But, slowly, as Niot saw that he could learn, he gained confidence in himself and motivation to study. The school system granted him a set of special considerations-extra time, the option of taking oral exams-removing obstacles that created the kind of pressure that led to his previous frustration. His behaviour improved and his grades rose. People learn in different ways and some students take longer to get to grips with various subjects. The school software has a powerful online community, so even if Niot was struggling, he never felt like he was alone, especially as he had people who could give him a helping hand.

Today he’s in eleventh grade and no one-teachers, parents, and most importantly, Niot, doubts that he will successfully complete the entire battery of national high school graduation exams and even excel at them, as his 97 mark yesterday shows. He has plans to go into the tech industry down the line right now, and is already eyeing materials for the mb-200 exam for the future.

Here’s a textbook case of how to turn failure into success. It shows how much children-indeed, adults as well-can change in an environment where the incentives are positive rather than negative. It shows how important patience and perseverance are with problem children. It shows that behaviors, self-perceptions, and views of the world are fluid, not written in stone. Too many kids like Niot never get the help they need. If they did, think how much better off we’d all be.

3 thoughts on “How To Succeed In School With A Lot Of Trying”

  1. I remember tutoring someone at University with such a disability (dyslexia). He was undoubtedly the brightest student I ever worked with. I just had to verbally explain to him the essence of what was going on–once–and he would just get it. I am a little like that myself and were just on the same page. He went from a fail to something akin to 97% in the repeats. Without doubt the most stimulating and rewarding student I ever had–he was great fun too, a mind that was never still.

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