One of the greatest blessings in my life, is having a brother who is totally unlike me. I realised that today when I was thinking about my passion for helping children love reading.
My brother was not academic. In fact he hated school. He could not get out of there quick enough. It has always saddened me that the system so often fails people like my brother. I mean, I knew he was perfectly intelligent. He just wasn’t academic. I remember a note he wrote once as a teenager. Out of perhaps ten words, he had misspelled all but two of them:
“car” and “engine”.
This had really taught me something. The things that mattered to him, he could spell fine. He had pretty much been born knowing how to drive. He had passed his driver’s test within weeks of his seventeenth birthday (unlike me). He worked as a tyre fitter for years. He would talk to me about tyres for hours. What I don’t know about wheel-balancing, is not worth knowing. He had found his niche. A niche in which he has done extremely well. Perhaps controversially I would tell my classes about him. I would explain that he too had struggled at school but was doing very well now. I would also state that some things were still hard for him and that I was pretty sure he wished he had tried a bit harder at school.
However I had always known he could spell “car” and “engine”.That was his passion. That was what he loved. That was how he could have been kept in school. That was how he could have been reached. If a teacher had sat and read a car guide with him, I am pretty sure words like lamborghini ( I can’t spell it myself, I just had to look it up.) would have presented him no issues whatsoever.
I know it works. I found my son’s passion and I went with that. In my case his passion for many years, was animals.
We watched so many documentaries by David Attenborough, I feel I could qualify as a zoologist myself. To my former husband’s credit, he had supported this. We actually had the thrilling experience of seeing David Attenborough give a talk. As he (my son) had grown up, he had shown an inclination towards becoming a vet and had gone out rescuing animals. There is a wonderful photo of him working with a vet, who was doing surgery on a wedge-tailed eagle. He is at university now. His interests have changed but he refuses to pass on any of the many animal books from those early days. I know that early love of animals will always be part of him.
Anything I have done right as a teacher(and believe me I screwed up all the time) is because of those early lessons which my brother taught me.
My own son was an extremely active toddler yet one day he had stood transfixed by a single ant, for what had seemed like hours. I sometimes feel very sad that so many young men become so disillusioned with school. Somewhere in their heart God has planted a seed. It is up to us to nurture it.