I know what you’re going through – the inability to keep your mind on the subject at hand. I had a similar condition during my high school years. Our lives are very parallel inasmuch as we seem to have a similar way of viewing history and we both possess a good level of common sense.
We might not be able to recall names and dates (something the education system insists upon), but we have a much better grasp of the big picture. The schools are geared for forced memorization of details (names, dates, numbers) and if people such as you and me are not of that mindset, we are like the proverbial square peg trying to fit into the round hole. Your dad’s mother was one of those memory persons. She got straight “A’s” all through school. But, when it came time to apply some of that knowledge to real life, like when we had to set the corner posts for the barn or determine the number of gallons of water in our well, she had no clue. I, on the other hand (15+ years out of high school) not only knew the concepts and formulas, but could apply them.
In the seventh grade at CCDS, I was assigned the book, Tale of Two Cities, and couldn’t for the life of me get past the first few pages. It wasn’t so much that the subject was boring as it was that my brain kept thinking about other stuff – it was almost as if my mind had a mind of its own. I could not force myself to read. Surely I had ADD, but they hadn’t discovered that malady back then.
Interestingly, I found (though I didn’t realize it at the time), I could readily learn about hot rods and engines by “studying” car magazines and listening (understanding) hot rod “teachers”.
Suggestions for Surviving the School Learning Process:
The Big Picture: Try to gain a concept of the big picture by scanning future material (glance through the book for what’s ahead – what the subject is all about). Then concentrate on one paragraph/concept/formula at a time. In other words, if, after gaining the insight to the subject as a whole, and the assignment is to read a chapter in a book, read the last paragraph first. Read it a bunch of times until your brain – between thinking about other stuff – understands and wants to know more about what it means. Then go back and read a paragraph here and there - enough so you know what the chapter is all about. Make notes.
Outside the Box: Sometimes, you can get away with working outside the box by being creative in your exam answers or class assignments. I was failing 10th grade Physics and had to do a term paper to pass. I wrote what I knew: engines. I told the story of Nicolas Augustus Otto – complete with footnotes. It was not a Physics subject, per se, but the teacher was so impressed with my paper, he not only allowed it, but gave me an “A” which cemented my passing the class. If a question concerning details (name, date, place) is posed on an exam and you don’t know the exact answer, try explaining the answer so as the teacher knows you know the “big picture.” It might work.
Games: Pretend an assigned subject is a game and make it something you want to be interested in - if for no other reason than to beat the kid sitting next to you. You know you can concentrate on matters of interest; the trick is to become fascinated in anything and everything that’s out there. Apply your abilities at learning computers and tools to school material.
Time: It’s the only commodity that cannot be stored, banked or replaced. Time fillers are things you can do when there are gaps in your planned activities (either your plans or those of your parents or teachers). These personal self-esteem satisfiers include reading for pleasure, helping another person (neighbor, classmate, parent, teacher), exercise (building muscles) or (fill in your concept).
The key words are self-esteem. By doing these “selfie time fillers” you’ll not only feel better about yourself, but others will learn of your productive measures and, consequently, that will generate their respect.
Final Thoughts: I don’t discount the fact that it’s important to be able to play video games and know how to operate today’s complex computers, phones, etc. However, once you’ve mastered those tools, it’s time to move on and one of the best ways is to read books and magazines. You and I might not be good at everything (no one is), but there is a place for our individual and unique abilities. I know mine, and with diligence, you’ll discover yours. Oh yeah, due to your ADD, you might want to read this a couple of times – and again in a day or so, and again … .
I love you, Granddad
Chuck Klein, a Brown County resident, is the author of many columns, articles and books, including CIRCA 1957, a coming-of-age, historically and technically correct autobiographical novel. He may be reached through his web site: www.chuckklein.com