I taught elementary for 14 years. Overall, it’s not an experience I would wish on anyone. I have gone into great detail about why in other posts, so I won’t bore you with another rant about the current education system and its many, many faults.
You might think that I had no bright points in the nearly a decade and a half I stayed in the profession, but that wouldn’t be quite right, either. Even in the worst years, when half of my class was seriously behaviorally challenged or when the paperwork load meant I was getting fewer than 4 hours of sleep each night just to keep up, there were some great kids. I had kids who stood up to bullies, and kids who protected their classmates from the violent kids in the class, and kids who just knew how to make someone’s day.
Others were amazing for other reasons. Some of the students I taught knew the most incredible minutiae about their favorite topics, the kind of trivia that only shows up in Final Jeopardy during major championship matches. The minor details, the tiniest trivia… they knew that. That’s why T is for Details.
I’ve been friends since junior high with a guy who fit that mode. He had a learning disability or two. Math was not his friend, and reading could be a challenge sometimes. Because he didn’t have the kind of smarts that count in school, some of our peers considered him to be below average intelligence. Boy, were they wrong.
He has a fantastic imagination. The ideas for stories that he came up with were incredible, and I turned many of them into short stories. In a large part, I became more serious about my writing in high school so I could do justice to some of the nifty ideas he came up with.
That’s not all, though. The man is a walking encyclopedia of military aircraft. What do you want to know? Max speed of an F-14? No problem. Available firepower for an A-10? Easier than breathing. Just ask. He has it covered.
I ran into kids like my friend when I was teaching, too. No, they weren’t all a walking, talking version of Jane’s, but they had their expert subjects. Rather than lament that they could name all 150 Pokémon along with their attacks, defenses, and evolution pathways but barely spelled their own names, the trick was to find ways to channel that incredible interest and that knowledge into skills that would later transfer to other subjects as they grew older.
Next time, U is for Adoption.