The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How my disabilities are also my superpowers... Sharing my story!

It is Dyslexia Awareness month and I want to share my story...

My story:  Jill Marie-Grandstaff Lam (because I am dyslexic and ADD I don't eye-read fast so I added a lot of short video clips to help tell my story).

Dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD are genetic and strong in my family tree.  Like many others, I didn't know what was wrong with me or the names dyslexia and dysgraphia.  I also didn't know that I had Attention Deficit Disorder, I just thought everyone lived in the thoughts in their head.  Here's an example of me in school & even now - 
video

I could always relate to these Ralph Phillips cartoons!  My mind wanders because it thinks in creative ways.  I tend to get lost in the stories in my own brain.  Someday, I'd love to take time to write these stories down but due to my dyslexia and dysgraphia, that process isn't easy.

I still don't know my math facts (times tables) and it wasn't because I was daydreaming during the lessons it was due to being dyslexic.  My rote memory just isn't there.  School was also challenging because I struggled with reading.  I have NEVER been able to sound out an unknown word.  I was taught Whole Language (insert eye-roll here and if you are educated about dyslexia I bet you did the eye-roll all on your own) and therefore was not taught phonics.  I didn't even learn how to say some of the letter sounds correct until my own children were going through their private Orton-Gillingham tutoring.  I will probably never be able to write a haiku poem because I have no idea how to separate words into syllables.  People who can break words into syllables always try to teach me to do this after they learn that I can't but what they don't understand is I really CAN'T.  When people do this I wonder if they would try to make a person who can't use their legs walk just because they themselves can walk. The same thing happens with learning a foreign language.  I struggle with pronouncing English words so foreign words are even worse, yet people who speak another language make an assumption that I'm just not trying hard enough.  I am trying as hard as I can! Finally, my reading fluency sucks.  I can't even get half-way through the subtitles of a movie before the screen changes. I had to see each of the Star Wars movies 12 times before I completely read the opening words- (okay, those of you who know me well know I was thrilled to see each one a dozen times).  

Yes, I struggled immensely in school from kindergarten to my Ph.D. program. Oh heck, I struggle every day with my disabilities!  I could share some stories of heartache and pain, stories about how I never fit in and worked hard to hide my disabilities; but I will not share these stories today.  I want to share with you 3 SUPERPOWERS I have BECAUSE of my disabilities. 

1:  The Superpower of Empathy
My brain is not able to process language like a non-dyslexic brain but I have more mirror neurons than my peers which means I experience deeper levels of empathy.  I knew from very early on that I felt the feelings of others.  I used to take these feelings on as my own because I didn't know the difference between the other person's feelings and my own feelings. Here's a video of mirror neurons & empathy to help you understand!   
video
So how do I know I have more mirror neurons & excess empathy?  I wish I could explain it or even prove it scientifically but I can't right now (working on that).  I just know.  Over the years I have developed this sixth sense so well that I am able to read even subtle body language and facial expressions of others.  When I meet people I can tell exactly what they are feeling and experiencing.  I can sense those around me that have this similar Superpower and it is often very strong in people with dyslexia.  Let me point out that not everyone has this as a Superpower or even a strength.  They may think they do because they have some mirror neurons and can show empathy but it is very different than what I am talking about; what I mean is an exceptional level of being able to feel exactly what another person is experiencing.  For those of you who have it to this degree - you know exactly what I mean. 

2:  The Superpower of Acceptance
I not only have an abundance of mirror neurons and empathy because these are the strength of my brain, I was also raised by parents who also have a brain wired for extra mirror neurons and empathy.  My parents taught me to accept EVERYONE and to help those in need.  I was blessed with acceptance and not judgment. I was taught the love of ear-reading and given audiobooks to listen to from Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnegie... and many more.  I was taught about Leo Buscaglia and his values.   I live my life based on the teachings of Leo even when people are mean to me or treat me bad.  Oh, you don't know Leo Buscaglia?  Well then, here's a very short clip oh him in action:
video
Doesn't he just make you smile?  Well, that's my reaction.  I have an intrinsic passion for the inclusion of everyone.  

3:  The Superpower of Tenacity
Having dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD is not easy and as a child, I didn't know anyone else like me so I knew that I was different.  I was on a quest to find others like me, as well as, to find the real ME.  I searched for answers in movies and books.  In high school, I found the answer in Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces and knew that I was on my own Hero's Journey!  I learned we are all on our own Hero's Journey and each movie and book took me on these adventures. The characters in these books and movies are like friends to me.  I an not an outsider looking in, but immersed in the stories as if I too were living them and experiencing the same adventures. I mastered my own Superpower skill of Tenacity!  I don't give up.  Watch my friend, Samwise Gamgee, explain exactly what I mean to Frodo Baggins:
video

Yes, I am a person with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD but I am also a person with many Superpowers- Empathy, Acceptance, and Tenacity.  In elementary and junior high my life was filled with shame and exclusion.  In high school when I became "friends" with Joseph Campbell I heard my calling to help others.  Like many, I refused this calling. I thought, who was I to help others- I am not worthy.  Due to my inner tenacity, I took the leap of faith and headed off to college to pursue a degree in Psychology (I also have minors in Health Education and Marketing).  With the help of all my Supernatural Aids (the characters of my movies & books), I went on to get a Master's degree in Clinical Counseling and became a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with supervisory status and then entered Crossing the Threshold into the working world.  I was taught how to diagnose all types of learning disabilities, worked in many areas of special education as a therapist, and eventually, I entered the Belly of the Whale by opening my own private practice as a Psycho-educational Diagnostician and Counselor in 2007- Forest Alliance Coaching (& Forest Alliance Coaching FB page).  On my journey of helping others I have been down many Roads of Trials and I'm still on these roads but I have the tenacity to just keep going. I now have my Ph.D. in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Psychology.
As I continue my journey I have ventured into many other areas where I can help others live a better life.  A few years ago I started The Dragonfly Forest a blog where I can share insights and motivate others who are different and often have disabilities (ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Asperger's...).  Through The Dragonfly Forest blog, The Dragonfly Forest FB page, and my private practice I have become even more involved in the disability community and now have Dragonfly friends all over the world.   

In early February 2013, I read about the Decoding Dyslexia movement in New Jersey and knew I was receiving another calling (one I didn't hesitate to answer).  I contacted Deborah Lynam from DD-New Jersey and got started on Decoding Dyslexia Ohio by making a commitment to DD-NJ and then starting Decoding Dyslexia here in Ohio and created the Decoding Dyslexia Ohio Facebook page.   The DD-OH journey has been an exciting one and I know that I was guided this way so I can continue to help make the lives of others a better place.  I meet with the wonderful parents of children with dyslexia in Ohio and look forward to sharing this journey with them.  The parents have been such a great support system as well and these parents suggested there be another Facebook page that focused Family Support (since the website & other FB page were focused on school and legal issues) so DD-OH Family Support FB page was started.  I am so excited by all the adventures we will be having on this DD-OH journey and thrilled that God, the Higher Power, or the Universe guided me in this direction. 

Here is one final video that I think really supports my life's journey and my Superpowers. Some of you will recognize a young Ben Foss (it was filmed in 2003 btw).   I love being on this journey with some great people like this - and YOU!  Thanks for sharing this journey with me! 
video

(Image: photo of me, Dr. Jill Lam with Ben Foss both standing and smiling at the camera)



(Image: my own photo of a blue and green dragonfly and my own quote: "Be proud of who you are because you are great!")






  

Monday, October 2, 2017

Why we should NOT follow the Golden Rule!


* Note: this was posted in Fall 2016 but necessary to re-share today~

I have been reading and hearing from Trump supporters "What are you so afraid of?  We already had racism, hate, rape...."  Ummm Society is aware that the world was NOT safe but this point of view is very egocentric.   People are afraid not because they fear these things but because the accepted Political Correct etiquette is now gone because Americans have a role model who is NOT Politically Correct.  I have been hearing how refreshing to listen to Trump because he is real and honest with his thoughts and feelings and people are too sensitive about "offending" others so they are glad to get rid of this Political Correct etiquette.  What people don't understand is that being PC is actually just being respectful.  By saying "Happy Holidays" instead of Merry Christmas to people is respecting that the other person may not be Christian and you are accepting that they might not share your religion.  Being PC means that you don't push your views on another person because the other person has a different experience than you do and you shouldn't assume we all experience life the same way.   I am also hearing people say that they are bringing Christian values back like the Gold Rule.  Well, that isn't the right answer either...

We need to stop teaching our children the Golden Rule.  Yep, that’s right!  We are teaching our children to do unto others as they themselves want done unto.  The concept sounds great.  If we want to be treated with respect we treat others with respects.  But if we actually follow this rule it means to treat others exactly how WE want to be treated.  So, if I like being touched and appreciate being hugged I should touch and hug others.  What if they don’t want to be touched and hugged?  Then what?  If you are the type of person that wants to be left alone when hurting and leave others alone when they are hurting you may lose friends.  Some people may want you to do everything in your power to let them know you care and you are there.  So treat others how THEY want to be treated.  
The Golden Rule is essentially a person being egocentric.  This is actually a type of cognitive bias, false-consensus effect to be exact.  We have a tendency to overestimate how much other people have the same values, opinions, beliefs, and preferences.  Yes, people can have a lot in common but we should NOT assume that we have everything in common.
If we are not teaching our children the Golden Rule, what should we be teaching them?  We need to teach empathy.  Empathy is being able to understand the perspectives of other people.  So instead of treating others how WE want to be treated, we need to treat others how THEY want to be treated!  This is referred to as the Platinum Rule.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

5 ways to Celebrate National Dyslexia Awareness Month

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and a great time to put a spotlight on dyslexia.  Although remember~ for full acceptance and inclusion we need to always have a spotlight on dyslexia and all types of disabilities not just once a year. The best way to embrace differences is to focus on all the unique qualities we all have.  

So, here are 5 ways to not only bring dyslexia into a classroom setting in October but ways you can add it to your curriculum to touch on all year long.

1.) Hang up pictures of people around the room with dyslexia (and other types of disabilities).  Here's a great link of famous people with dyslexia where you can find people in all types of fields for any classroom.  This is important because we have learned from the Harvard Implicit Bias Project that we have less bias toward people of specific races, genders, and disabilities when we are frequently exposed to positive images of people in these categories. (You can find plenty picture quotes, like the one below, I make for the Decoding Dyslexia Ohio Facebook Page).  




2.) Explain to students the signs of Dyslexia- A quick way to do this is to show one or both of these videos
video


video


Also, pass out this information from The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity




























** Note: be prepared to see yourself in these symptoms and have a number of students in your classroom identify with these symptoms because 1 in 5 is a person with dyslexia!  

3.) Add books to your classroom - a great page to find these resources is Yale's list of books for young people focused on dyslexia.  Furthermore, teach about famous authors with dyslexia such as Avi, Victor Villasenor Burro, Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John IrvingDav Pilkey, Patricia Polacco, Henry Winkler... 

4.) Show one or more of these short videos.  Each is a famous person speaking about their experience being dyslexic.  When students learn about people with disabilities beings successful, the students become more motivated.  

Orlando Bloom:
video

Whoopi Goldberg:
video

Sir Richard Branson:
video

Daymond John:
video

It is also powerful to have a young person share the story of their own journey toward success despite having a disability and this video of Piper Otterbein is very inspiring!  

video

5.)  Do not... I repeat DO NOT do a dyslexia simulation where the letters on the page are flipped, reversed, half missing, or blurred. People with dyslexia do not see things wrong and this type of activity only feeds the myth that dyslexia is related to seeing the letters/words backward.  If you do feel that you want to help people understand how reading can be challenging for a person with dyslexia have them read something in a foreign language.  The following is a simple paragraph with each sentence in a different foreign language.  Have people try to read this accurately and fluently - they will discover that it isn't easy.  Explain that this is similar to what some people with dyslexia experience.  Make sure the students understand that each person with dyslexia is unique and it doesn't mean the person is not smart- their brain is just processing language differently.  Also, do NOT explain what it is like to be a person with dyslexia if you do not have dyslexia.  Have a guest speaker come in and talk to the class about what living with dyslexia is like for that person.


Finally, make sure you talk to students daily all year long that each and every student is unique and it is being different that makes the world a great place.  Have them think about all the ways they are a unique individual!  





Thursday, September 21, 2017

5 ways to deal with a professional who bullies and intimidates

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone behaved toward you in a bullying way with the intent to intimidate you?  

This may happen if you are working on trying to enlighten others to see a different perspective, you are challenging their confirmation bias, and/or you know more than the other person.  

We all have biases and we need to understand our own biases while also understanding the biases of others.  Click here's more about biases!  Sadly, many people are unaware of their biases and therefore make judgments and decisions that are skewed and/or inflexible.  

As a therapist and person with exceptionally high empathy, I tend to naturally spin the actions of others to look beyond their behaviors and emotions to the underlying reasons.  I do not often allow the negative behaviors to turn my behaviors and feelings negative.  This isn't always possible, especially after being personally attacked.  Since I am often in meetings being the voice of my clients I am frequently in situations where professionals do not act professionally. Other professionals (teachers, counselors, school psychs, administrators...) can use bullying and intimidation tactics instead of appropriate more professional forms of communication. This may happen as a response to the professionals picking up the anxiety, sadness, fear, and frustration from the parent of my client.  Parents of children with disabilities tend to have a lot of negative experiences as they work to getting their child appropriate services in an educational environment so they come into meetings bubbling with a lot of emotions.  The unprofessional bullying behaviors from professionals are also, at times, a reaction to me enlightening them to things they don't want to see or know. Sometimes it's because they realize that I know much more they do and they are feeling insecure. 

The problem with me being a therapist and person with exceptionally high empathy.... people think that they CAN intimidate and bully me!  Yes, I put up with a lot of crap from people because I can see that the person doing the bullying and intimidating is really insecure, afraid, less educated, weak, or has at least one 'ism' (racism, ableism, sexism...).  Because I don't bully or intimate back, the other person usually assumes they have won or "put me in my place."  

Don't ever assume that tolerance and empathy are weaknesses!  I am NOT weak!  I am more powerful because I don't attack back I work to create a better understanding for all.  I work to assure that everyone is felt validated.  This takes much more patience and skill to behave with integrity than "putting someone in their place" by bullying or intimidating.  

Here are 5 ways you too can be the better person when attacked by a professional using bullying and intimidation tactics.

1.)     The first thing you need to do is BREATHE!  You may or may not be shocked that a professional just used bullying intimidation tactics to attack you but either way, you will feel the punch in your gut so you must remember to breathe!  So right after it happens- take a deep breath in, all the way down to the bottom of your lungs and let it out slowly.  As you breathe in think similar words "I'm in control," "I'm better than this ASS," or "I will not be intimidated."  As you let your breath out think calm and relaxing thoughts.  You need to do this so you don't allow the ASS to win by pissing you off.

2.)    After you take a breath in and out--put a smile on your face.  Yes, this may seem passive aggressive but the bullying intimidator needs to know that you are not being "put in your place." This smile is there as evidence that YOU are the better person and gives the message that you cannot be attacked in this fashion.

3.)    This smile will also help you remember that professionals who use bullying and intimidation as a communication strategy are NOT being professional.  By keeping your cool, YOU are being the professional in the room!  Professionals do not attack even when attacked.  Professionals are mature adults that understand empathy and support.

4.)    Don't take anything the bullying intimidator says personally.  Their amygdala is out in control and they are in a lower level processing part of their brain -- think immature monkey.  They will do and say just about anything at this point & their goal is to squash you.  If they see you are taking it personally they will continue to attack.  When they see you are not bothered because you have a smile on your face they will be even more pissed off.  Do nothing back to the bullying intimidator but show as much kindness as you can muster.  It will make them even angrier and their true colors will be displayed in the meeting.  FYI be careful because retaliation will occur so you must document everything.  Parents of kids with disabilities & professionals who advocate for them are often the target of retaliation because we continue to fight battles the school districts often want us to give up on.  

5.)    Finally, reward yourself for not attacking back but standing your ground and letting the bullying intimidator know that you will not allow others to treat you this way.  Know that you were being the better person by not stooping to their level.  Don't let the behaviors of others stop you from fighting for yourself or your child.  

Key take-away:  Even when others act in an unprofessional manner continue to have integrity and behave in a manner that will make you feel pride.  People who bully and intimidate are lying to themselves if they feel proud of their behaviors or justify them by blaming others.  


(Image: photo of a brown dragonfly on a stem that also has a spiderweb attached both all covered with small drops of dew creating a dragonfly with stunning wings covered with small water beads and a cobweb enhanced by hundreds of tiny water drops and a quote from Karen Horney - “If you want to be proud of yourself, then do things in which you can take pride” )







Sunday, September 10, 2017

Depression in school-aged children especially those with disabilities

 Please share & here's a link about WHAT TO DO ABOUT SUICIDE!  

A true story about depression – this could be you:

A student, "Thomas." has a learning disability and an IEP (the type of LD doesn’t matter as any will fit here for this story).  He knows that he doesn’t learn like the other students, is often excluded by his peers (bullied as well), and feels overwhelmed in the school environment.  Over time Thomas became depressed, he refused to attend school, and eventually he contemplated suicide.  His parents have always been strong advocates for their son and contacted the school seeking help. The parents were surprised when instead of receiving support they were attacked and blamed for his current situation.  The school principal became defensive and stated that the parents are at fault and they “need to work with them, not against them.”  The guidance counselor also condemned the parents stating as a counselor she is too busy to address all the needs of the students and she has done nothing wrong waiting for over a day to return the phone call.  The parents got help for their son outside of the school district but were not able to obtain appropriate support at the school which was the source of the problem. 
The Facts:


September is Suicide Awareness week and October is Depression Awareness Month so I want to address an issue that is often brushed aside and minimized.  It is depression.  Depression is one of the most common mental disorders and according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) 1 in 11 children will experience clinical depression before the age of 14.  Furthermore, the risk for depression increases as a child gets older and is the leading cause of disability among Americans ages 15-44 according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Depression affects a person’s entire physical and mental well-being. 

Did you know that students with learning disabilities (LD) have statistically higher accounts of depressions than their peers without LD?  Having a disability makes attending school challenging.  Students with disabilities know that their lives are not under their control, they are painfully aware that they don’t fit in, have academic failures, and experience a number of social rejections. Unfortunately, depression is not addressed in schools (another forbidden “D” word).  Many if not all kids with learning disabilities experience Learned Helplessness and this does NOT mean the child is coddled by their parents! Read this article to educate yourself on Learned Helplessness!

One of the reasons depression is not discussed, is shame.  Parents already experience a number of emotions regarding having a child with a disability.  To make matters worse, teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and administrators often blame parents for the child’s academic struggles and behaviors.  I am frequently in meetings where school staff members give parenting advice and have blatantly stated that the child wouldn’t have these difficulties if the parents would only…“read with the child, help with homework, stop doing the child’s homework, discipline consistently, stop cuddling the child, reduce their social/sports schedule, increase their social/sports schedule”, and the list is endless.  When parents already feel responsible for their child’s struggles these comments only make the situation worse, not better.  This “blame the parents” approach makes it more difficult for the parents to bring up concerns about depression and the school staff perceiving the symptoms of depression as a parenting problem.

The second reason depression is not discussed is because people don’t know the symptoms of depression in children and adolescents, especially ones with a disability.  The symptoms of depression are often common signs for other problems and the severity of these symptoms is not taken seriously.    

The following are some symptoms of depression (these will be unique for each person):
  • Irritability, anger, angry outbursts  
  • Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness – feeling melancholy or sad most of the day
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Over clinging to parents
  • Feelings of anxiety, phobias
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection or criticism
  • Changes in appetite - either increased (weight gain) or decreased (weight loss)
  • Changes in sleep (sleeplessness, too much sleep)
  • Crying, temper tantrums, or sulking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue (tiredness) low or decreased energy
  • Physical Complaints or chronic pain (stomach aches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment (possible real physical problem or feigning illness)
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Reduced ability to function during activities at home or with friend, in school, extracurricular activities, and in hobbies or interests
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Getting into trouble, increased behavior problems
  • Inability to experience pleasure or excitement even when doing activities that were pleasurable
  • Mania or putting on a good front by being over happy
  • Experimentation with drugs or alcohol
  • Thoughts or talk of death or suicide
To get a direct perspective of what depression it is like for a popular non-learning disabled student watch this video of Kevin Breel (Confessions of a Depressed Comic):  Watch one of the two - sometimes phones do not allow a video to play so you have two options to choose from but they are the same video!

video
Embedded video 

What can be done:

Depression can be treated and children experiencing depression MUST be treated because if they do not get help it will only get worse.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) once a child experiences depression, the child is at risk of developing another depression within five years.  Eventually, the child may contemplate or attempt suicide.  Did you know that according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 5-15 year-olds?    

If we continue to minimize depression we risk losing children to suicide.  Is this a risk we want to take?  NO!

So, make sure you, as a parent know what to look for regarding depression.  Ask the school staff members to also be educated on depression and look for signs and symptoms in all children.  The earlier this is caught the easier it is to treat. 

(Image: black and white photo of a student sitting at a computer desk with books and a computer on the top of the desk and the student is sitting with his/her head down being held up by his/her hands with elbows resting on the desk.  Quote from Stephanie Sergent Daniel's article 'Reading Disabilities Put Students at Risk for Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours and Dropping out of School' - "In our study, poor readers were three times more likely than typical readers to consider or attempt suicide and six times more likely to drop out of school.  Educators and parents should be aware of the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adolescents with reading problems.")

(Image: a figure sitting with their hands clasped and their head down and the words "Did you know?  1 in 11 children will experience clinical depression before the age of 14 & suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 5-15 year-olds?  It's time to talk about depression")


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why Bill Gates is a Part of the Educational Problem

There’s an article going around the internet posted by Huffington Post titled: Gates Says Fixing Education Toughest Challenge.  In this article Gates is quoted as saying: "And the one thing we have a lot of in the United States is unmotivated students.”

Wow, this is not reality.  We do not have UNMOTIVATED students we have students who have not been educated appropriately and therefore they have developed Learned Helplessness. I wrote an article on The Importance of Changing Learned Helplessness in Students with Disabilities and would love for Mr. & Mrs. Gates to understand the reality of why students are not being successful.  I know of many very intelligent students who dropped out or failed out because of this Learned Helplessness experience.  This article was very popular and I received a number of emails from people who wanted to tell me their story because this was exactly what they were/had experienced. 

I later received emails and phone calls from parents who were frustrated because they took the Learned Helplessness article (or emailed it) to the school and the staff often disregarded the student developed learned helplessness and continued to blame it on being unmotivated and unwilling.  This prompted me to write another article: Why We Should Help Studentswith Learning Disabilities. 

We need to admit that we as a nation are doing it wrong when it comes to education.  We are rewarding the wrong behaviors, setting kids up for consistent failures, and using an arbitrary grading system (Grades, ACT/SAT, and Standardized Tests).  In a more recent article I address this topic: Students don’t Fail, the Education System is failing our Students!

So, what can we do about this?  We can admit that it is uncomfortable to face reality.  To look at ourselves in the mirror and see the naked truth.  Our education system is the problem.  If Mr. & Mrs. Gates want to make the world a better place than they need to put money into education research.  We need to educate our children and stop letting so many of them fall through the cracks as if these kids don’t matter.  Mr. & Mrs. Gates could help financially support programs that are evidence based such as making sure all schools have systematic, explicit, and phonic based reading approaches/programs.  If a student is not progressing at grade level then this student is to receive one-to-one tutoring until they are at or above grade level.  We need to stop allowing teachers to just pass a student on or fail these students. 

We need to stop with the standardized testing and focus on educating these children.  A teacher can tell if a student is behind in the areas of reading, writing, and math.  We don’t need a standardized test to prove these students are behind.  Teachers should be allowed to identify these students so they can receive individualized support and the school district should pay for each student who is behind an individualized tutor until the student is at or above grade level.  Failure should NOT be an option.  We need to stop waiting until the standardized test scores come out to finally decide to help some of these students.  We need to stop waiting until the student is so far behind that it is almost impossible for them to catch up.  The school system is squishing the self-esteem of many children and causing students to develop learned helplessness. 

So here’s my final message to Mr. & Mrs. Gates.  Stop being a part of the problem.  Saying students are UNMOTIVATED is fueling the negative fire already in these children.  They are not UNWILLING they are UNABLE!  If I had the funds you have I would be making a difference in the way we educate our students, the way we motivate, and the way the culture & climates of the school are focused on competing against each other and not supporting each other for success.  I’d spend money educating the educators on EMPATHY because Empathy is the Antidote to bullying!  Honestly, education is not as challenging as Mr. & Mrs. Gates think, it will just take a while to see the positive changes once the discrimination stops.

Finally, if you want to know what discrimination does to a person watch: Dr. King &Lessons from A Class DividedPeople with dyslexia and other learning disabilities are often discriminated against in the educational system.  There are rumors that Bill Gates himself is dyslexic but I do not believe that it true.  I believe if he was dyslexic then he would have empathy and stop blaming our children (here’s a great article by Pam Wright: The Blame Game!  Are SchoolProblems the Kids’ Fault?).  I do not believe that Mr. Gates knows what it is like to struggle or be discriminated against.  If this opinion is not true, then Mr. Gates can enlighten me but in the meantime, I have no evidence to prove he understands what it is really like in the shoes of someone who struggles.

Here's a picture & quote from a child who experienced only a couple of days feeling bad about himself. Think about what our current education system is doing to children and then tell me that kids are UNMOTIVATED Mr. Gates!