I have always been a geek. In school I was the child noone wanted to be friends with. Throughout primary and til about the age of 13 I was the one who sat at the front of the class and permanently had their hand up, waving it around and sitting up even straighter if I wasn’t asked to answer immediately
“Me, Miss, I know, Miss, MISS!”
That was me. It is me again actually but it wasn’t me for a long time between the ages of 13 and 30. And this blog is a little explanation of why.
I was top of the class at pretty much everything when growing up. My mum taught me to read and write and do maths before I started school so by the time I did I was far and away more advanced than the rest of the class. This left me to carry on my learning with books on my own while the rest of the class worked together.
As I progressed through school my bookishness continued and I continued to shine in all areas of the curriculum. Aside from two:
2) Sports involving a ball (football, tennis, volleyball etc)
Every section of my school reports throughout primary and secondary makes a reference to my handwriting. It was awful. Still is although much better after years and years of faithful practice and hard work.
It didn’t matter how great a piece of work I had written I would always get a comment on the marking about my presentation. Every. Time.
In Secondary this got even worse. I was top of the class in German and the teacher hated it. (This may have been due to me correcting her spelling a couple of times even though she was a German lady) So even though my work was correct she would give me a B and everyone else an A* and would cite my handwriting as the reason.
In PE I was shouted at frequently for not catching the ball. For the ball hitting me in the face/leg/stomach before I had even tried to grab for it. Shouted at by my peers but also by my teachers.
These two areas were the only things I couldn’t do at school. Yet they ruled my school years. Why? Because the teachers could never EVER let me off.
And you might think fair enough. Why shouldn’t a teacher tell me what I need to improve? If I was good at everything else then clearly these were my only targets, right?
Well there is one piece of information I haven’t told you yet. But a piece of information that the teachers DID know.
I am blind in my left eye. Completely. Have been since birth.
My handwriting was particularly affected because during the years when I was learning handwriting the doctors were trying to make my blind eye see. So I had to wear a patch on my “good” eye. For two and a half years I was pretty much entirely blind and feeling my way around the classroom. I was allowed to take the patch off at lunchtime otherwise I couldn’t see my food but all morning I lived in darkness but still completed all my work. I wrote over and over on the same line in my book with no idea what I was doing.
Ball sports will always be a problem. I cannot see the ball if it approaches from my left side so it will hit me in the face. Everyone else will laugh. And their laughter, not the pain, will make me cry. It always did. Because it was always accompanied by shouting from the teacher.
Now I clearly have succeeded in my life despite having awful handwriting and not being able to play ball sports. But it never, ever leaves me.
At 13 I gave up trying and became much more rebellious (nothing major I just stopped doing homework). Until then I had tried so hard to impress my teachers, to little avail, that I had alienated all the other students. I came across as a “Know it all” and a geek. I do now too. The difference is that now I don’t care.
When I was 14 I handed in some work to my biology teacher and as I handed it over to her I said “Sorry it is messy” – my default apology at this stage. She replied “It’s OK Jodie I know your content will be excellent and that is what matters.” I burst into tears. She was horrified thinking she said something wrong and I had to explain to her that she was the first teacher to tell me that for years. It was a bitter sweet realisation.
I work as hard as I do and absorb all the information I can so that I can be as good as everyone else despite my one eye. I have always overcompensated. This meant I got promoted before others in pretty much every job I have ever had. I didn’t mean to step on anyone toes I just have a severely low opinion of myself so always strive to work hard enough that I don’t get sacked but usually ends up with me overdoing it.
So moving into teaching. And why technology changed my life.
I love computers. Computers can do what I cannot. They can present my ideas neatly. You would not have read this far if I had handwritten this.
So I have always turned to computers to do stuff for me to cover up my inadequacies.
But I have not always been allowed the safety net and comfort of a computer and am still not allowed it sometimes. Just like many children now are having mobile phones/iPads/laptops banned in the classroom and have to wait for their hour a week in the ICT suite. I had to wait for my hour every two weeks!
I got good at computers and ICT after school when I realised the power within them. But imagine if I had been allowed to word process all my work in school? Or present my ideas in a podcast or video?
When I became a teacher I made sure all my class had access to doing work both on paper and through ICT. That is why I do what I do. I did not get ICT awards and get promoted so fast because I had some big vision of innovating the world. Simply because I wanted the children I taught to never feel at school the way I did. I wanted them to all feel they belonged and to make sure they all know their strengths AND their weaknesses but also have a toolbelt of ways to overcome their weaknesses because our disabilities in life should never become our excuses, merely our triumphs.
By doing that in my classroom I did win awards and all the rest. But it is not WHY I did it. And I am partly annoyed I won anything because in this day and age EVERY teacher should be allowing their children a range of different ways of presenting themselves. Because not every disability is obvious.
Not every disability involves a statement or an IEP.
I kept my blind eye a secret for years. I was fed up of people taking the mickey out of me and of people thinking I wanted special treatment. So I didn’t even tell some of my closest friends. I let people believe I am really clumsy when I repeatedly banged into the door frame. Nowadays I would still rather turn down a friendly game of football by making a joke about being fat than by simply saying “I am blind in one eye”
But there is a huge difference in my life now. Because I will use technology to prove I am as good as others and sometimes even better. Not because I can but because I should. Because every teacher needs to know the difference a small thing such as typing rather than handwriting can have on someone’s life.
I will also leave you with one tale for all headteachers out there. This year I applied for what seemed to be my ideal job. ICT Specialist for a primary school who wanted a visionary and hard worker to transform their ICT department to be outstanding.
I applied – being Outstanding and a visionary and all. With my awards listed on my CV alongside my previous experience and dedication proven. I did not even get an interview. I asked for feedback.
“We cannot grant an interview based on the handwriting on your application letter. You should practice this for future jobs”
And I was back to being 9 years old again. Do I feel sad I didn’t get the job? No. A school who wants visionary ICT will not be worried about my handwriting and that is the only school I want to work for. But am I sad for the children of that school? Yes because they lost a candidate who can run that ICT department really well. All because of a minor disability that could be overlooked for an ICT job in 2012 don’t you think?!
I want to say here also that the teachers I had were not “bad” teachers. They were mostly actually very good teachers and I learnt a lot. What they were doing was what they THOUGHT was best. They just got it wrong. Not on purpose. Not maliciously (except maybe the German teacher ) but just because they wanted me to be better. They just didn’t realise I could not be the “better” that they wanted. I just needed a different way to be “better.”
So that is my mission. To show schools and teachers that ICT does not have to be some huge gadget- and gimmick-filled extravaganza. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It doesn’t need an ICT specialist (I have no formal ICT training under my belt and am still lagging far behind my Twitter peers in those aspects) but that tiny little changes to how they incorporate ICT into their classroom can make a HUGE difference to many children.
Oh and this post was supposed to be about how technology changed my life. Well it didn’t. That’s the thing. It isn’t life changing. It doesn’t stop people needing me to write stuff by hand sometimes. It doesn’t stop me being awful at ball sports. But by using technology my life got a whole new focus. And by being good at using technology in class it did give me a career I love more and more every day. Plus it made paperwork it a whole lot easier!!