2e Tuesday:: “Not Trying Hard Enough”

For my post this week (late! I know! I’m hopeless!) I’ll draw on something that happened this week to Naturalist in order to highlight the most frustrating aspect of being a 2e, creative learner.

2e, twice exceptional (exceptionally smart along with exceptional learning differences) kids are intense. They work hard, play hard, and think hard. These kids tend to be intense!

One of the greatest injustices of being 2e is that oftentimes their output doesn’t match up with their abilities. Or, rather, it can appear by looking at their schoolwork that they aren’t trying hard or paying attention or focusing. For instance, Naturalist is a beautiful artist but has horrible writing. HORRIBLE. Her penmanship is all over the place, capitalization mixed with lower case, slanted down the page, big and little mixed up. The physical act of writing is a weakness, and many 2e kids struggle with this. Putting her ideas down on paper is a frustrating process (visual, right brain thinkers are trying to process images into words and then into letters, which takes a while!), and she spends twice as long doing it than most kids.

It’s hard to accept the fact that a kid who has a 10th grade vocabulary would struggle with 3rd grade spelling words, or a kid with an encyclopedic knowlege about WWII would be unable to do simple addition. And so, lots of times the kids is blamed for not paying attention or not focusing.

Imagine struggling and working over writing something down…taking longer than anyone else and thinking harder about it…only to be told that it was ‘sloppy’ or ‘not good enough’ or only worth a ‘C’ grade. It would really burst your bubble. It would make an already frustrating experience even that much more painful. And to a kid with a highly developed moral code, it’s incredibly unfair.

This week, Naturalist told me that in a drama class she’s taking (my kids go to a program once a week where they can take elective classes through the public school system), she has written work to turn in. And that her teacher gave her back one of them and told her she didn’t try hard enough on it.

Looking back on her public school years, I think so much of her anxiety and depression came from comments like this. From feeling the discrepancy between knowing how hard she’d worked and then knowing that it wasn’t going to be good enough. I totally played into it. If a teacher told me she needed to work harder, or pay more attention to her worksheets, then that’s what we did. If I could go back, I would change so much of that. I would work something out with the teacher where Naturalist would spend a reasonable amount of time working on something, with a reasonable amount of effort, and the teacher would accept it in whatever form we sent it back…half finished, spelling errors, whatever.

One of the best skills I’ve developed over the last 4 years with Naturalist is the ability to respect and trust her. When she says she’s working hard, even if it doesn’t look like it to me, I back off. If she’s reading at a level that I think should be higher, I keep my mouth shut. If she’s frustrated by something that I *know* she should be able to do, I don’t say, “but this is so easy…”. I respect her learning style…not just the ‘gifted’ parts of it that put her at a higher level than her peers, but also the ‘different’ part of it that sometimes puts her at lower level.

A big part of that is also helping other people, like this drama teacher, respect that as well. Whether it’s through educating them on what a 2e learner is like, or standing up for her, or figuring out what accomodations would work best for her.

And the biggest part of that? Helping Naturalist herself respect it. Because going forward, if she doesn’t respect how she thinks and learns, no one else will either. So I have to keep a check on my frustrations, and expectations, and pressure if I want her to be able to keep a check on hers. Being 2e is a unique challenge–these kids know it and we know it–and our kids don’t need even more negatives from us to add on to it. They need us in their corner, accepting, encouraging, respecting.



8 Responses

  1. I’m so glad I found your blog! This is beautiful!

  2. I am with you Tiff. What I have learned most of all these years is to Back off. , well , which is a bit difficult for me. But now I have improved a lot.

    I had a similar experience like this . They had a book on communicative English . Siva had taken great care and effort to do the front cover painting, decorated it with stickers and it was all awesome.

    And they had to write about something also. He took it to the class with great pride.But when the teacher told him his hand writing is not good ( yes , on his face ) he literally dumped the book. ( How could she ! ) I never heard anything about it again. Now he brings it home and just complete what has to be done and simply take it back. All the enthusiasm has vanished.

    But in his assessment report they specifically wrote about his difficulties in small muscle coordination which may affect his hand writing and craft works. And I brought it to her attention.

    Now that nobody is asking him to improve his writing (that includes me ) he works on it himself. His handwriting has improved a lot. Every day he writes cursive writing on his own. But I know it wouldn’t be the same for exams where he has to concentrate on the answers and time limit.

    I think it is not that these kids don’t know that they have to improve but some times they know however hard they try they are not going to reach up to it and they eventually decide to give up.

    Now that he has started to speak out what he really feels about something I find lot of similarities with Naturalist.

    Yesterday I was reading one of your old posts ” Let’s Talk Apples and…” and it cudnt have been more correctly written. Even if they complete the assignment they may not make it up to the teacher . They will lose it or accidentally tear it or some thing or other. It has always happened for us.

    ( Btw , this teacher was the one who was most understanding when I told about his LD. But she won’t give marks ! haha ! I think they believe it will spoil the kid )

    Even I was thinking of asking his teacher to ignore the spelling mistakes and give him marks for what he knows. Just to boost his confidence or as a recognition for his effort.

    But I know , there are miles and miles to go before the public education system will accept some thing like that. And it is nice to know that you are not alone.

  3. Oh god ! my comment is so lengthy . When it comes to these issues I cannot hold myself. And I am creating a havoc to every body around me. Trying to explain what they don’t want to or cannot understand ! LOL!

  4. I’m so glad you write comments like that! We’re a community, and who knows who else will read this and learn from it, or find value in it! I certainly did! 🙂

  5. I am so there with you Tiffl, although I am still struggling to keep my own expectations of my girls learning style at bay. However, just this past Monday, my girl was in a drama/choir with a local homeschool group. She had one line which, after hiding the previous year, was not enough for her this year. But she was proud of her one line and she tried hard to give all the movements and emotions called for to her best ability. ( I might add that balance and coordination are not her strong point) We arrived at the performance only for the Choir Director to tell her in front of about 50 kids, that she did not do her line/moves well enough and she had to move to the back! Talk about devistation…. I was furious and deeply pained for her. However, after wanting to quit right then, she tried her hardest to participate, altough anyone could see the pain in her face.

    My husband and I wanted to have some words with the Choir Director and pull her out. But her reply that night was, ” I am not going to quit daddy. I do not have to let this one incident stop me from doing something I like to do.” What maturity. I just wish other adults could show that same maturity when dealing, or judging other peoples children.

  6. Thanks for this post Tiffani. It reminds me of the delicate balancing act we have with 2e learners and how sometimes Moms lose their balance.

    Owen loves to share his knowledge of exoplanets, DNA, and the periodic table of elements but if you ask him to write a sentence he dissolves into tears. When he does write it is all in caps, scrawled “outside the lines” and usually difficult to read. Reconciling the wild swings in abilities is still something I have to process every day.

    Thanks for the gentle reminder to advocate, support and honor these wonderful kiddos.

  7. Regarding your darling girl and writing: might I suggest she creates her own ‘font’ for big projects like that? Turning the mechanical process of writing into a creative process may be quite satisfying to her.

    As one example from my own life, here is a sketchbook (called a ‘Drawing Set’ in Sculpture) in which I used a font that I created just for this project: http://issuu.com/_skye_/docs/installation_light/38 . I used this font on this sketchbook, on my Design Boards (large posters illustrating my concept for the light installation) and on the placard that eventually titled the final piece which was installed in September. Not only did I find satisfaction in the actual writing of these different media but as you can see my typeface unified and made more ‘complete’ each page & the background information of the installation – even if the rest of the things written on the page were in my usual scribble-scrabble handwriting.

    Naturalist is creative enough that she might find real joy in typography – there’s enough structure to contain (so as not to get lost in forever-options) but enough freedom to really dive in and CREATE. I can certainly see her spending some time making things like this: http://pichaus.com/fonts-graphics-fun-nature-@937390a1c8303f5bec0b1902851919e6/

    Play to your strengths, I say!

  8. Thanks for reminding us of how difficult it can be sometimes for our kids and how wonderful they really are. It can be so difficult to see the forest for the trees and it’s vitally important to do so for all our kids, especially our 2e kids.

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