Monday, May 3, 2010

Numerical Miracles and Minor Distractions

I said that I would explain why I was having such a hard time: here it goes. I have to take a math class to be fully licensed to teach first grade. It would be fine if it was an instructional class, but it has to be a 100 level math class (I need to be "highly qualified" according to No Child Left Behind).

For most this is no problem, for me, though, it is Herculean. I haven't taken a math class in 20 years and I have a learning disability in math. I have carefully structured my life to avoid math tasks. Under normal circumstances, you'd just think that I was ditsy, but truth is I perceive the world in a slightly different way. I have an auditory processing disorder which makes it seem like I can't hear. The thing is I can hear, I just hear everything and can't discern between foreground and background noises. My directionality is the pits, too. I get lost even in my own neighborhood. I know which way to go, but my mind flip flops it and I turn the wrong way. Every place looks slightly the same, no matter how many times I've seen it. If you ever want a laugh, watch me in an exercise class. They go left, I go right. Along with directions flipping, so do the hands on the clock and numbers. I have learned over the years to be very calm, very careful and always double check everything (GPS helps!). The only part of all of this that I can't work around is anxiety. I know, anxiety again, but this is where it all began. Math anxiety is a real type of LD. I think of math, my heart races, I can't sleep, I can't think straight. This is as real as a fear of heights or spiders. I can't make it go away. Nobody really seems to understand this except my mom. She lived through it with me.

In order to take a 100 level math class, I had to take a placement test. I spent the day of the test so nervous. Of course, this was the day of utter first grade ridiculousness. If my classroom had been a sitcom, our Nielsons' would have been through the roof! I had the perfect math lesson planned (the irony is not lost on me). In the middle of it one of my students "accidentally" tied his shoes together. This is a child who normally needs a lot of reassurance and attention from me. This was not how to get it. He began dancing around and made the knot tighter. Then he unraveled the laces until the knot was hopeless. I called the secretary (a good friend of mine) for help. She offered to come get the shoes because we knew that if I cut the laces, his very demanding grandparents would insist we buy him new shoes. After she finally untied them and brought them back, he proceeded to hop around to put them on. Another student (who also needs a lot of TLC) kicked his shoes up on his desk and proudly declared "I don't need laces! I have Velcro!" At this point one of my sweet little girls quietly asked me why my hair was standing on end.

After I got the little darlings home, I rushed to the community college to take my test. I was happily going along finding answers all over the place. It almost seemed fun and I began to think I knew more than I thought, when the test shut itself off (there is an automatic shut off after 4 wrong answers in a row). I failed gloriously! I would need to take 4 remedial type classes to even get into the 100 level. I only have nine months. As I tried not to cry in front of all of the twenty somethings, the testing coordinator suggested that I go talk to a counselor (the career kind). I met with a wonderful counselor and when he found out that I had a master's degree, he waved the placement requirements and put me right in the class! I start the week of May 17th.

It is amazing how things always seem to work out for me:) I am very lucky.

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