Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Intelligence Plus Character- that is the goal of a True Education- Martin Luther King Jr.

It has been a wonderful year of school for my daughter, Sara Ashley. I have had the privelege of seeing her shine this year as she has made both academic and personal strides. When I watch her now, a soon-to-be middle schooler, it is hard for me to remember the fear I felt when first enrolling her at the school she attends- a school for children with learning differences. However, a few short weeks ago my memory was refreshed by a teacher at her school who wanted to share a story with me for my book.

Hearing her recall her experiences with Sara Ashley and another student at their first summer camp, before their first grade year, brought back a variety of memories. These memories included the anxiety of learning our daughter would be academically challenged, the hope for what this  specialized school environment would mean to her, as well as nostalgia for how much she has grown. But most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on how she has thrived. 

I am sharing this story with you because it has special significance, especially now. Last Friday afternoon I attended the end of the school year awards ceremony for my daughter and her peers where two students, one boy and one girl, were given the Award for Outstanding Character.  

Albert Einstein (also a dyslexic) once said, “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” 
And as Mr. James, the headmaster of the lower school, reminded us, "It is not the high grades or test scores that others will remember most about us. These will quickly be forgotten. But our character will always be remembered."

As you may have guessed by now, Sara Ashley was the school's choice as the female winner of this award for the 2012-13 school year. Her father and I are so proud of her!

Reflecting on the multitude of emotions I have experienced through this journey, I am left in awe of a God so good that I am humbled beyond measure. How could we have known that He would take what the world perceives as foolish and use it to shame the wise? (1 Corinthians 1:27) He tells us this in His word. Why did I have such little faith that I failed to believe?

And looking back now at my anger and fear for her differences, I contemplate, in my utter humaness, why I could not conceive that through His mighty work in our daughter, He would accomplish infinitely more than we could ever ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

Thankfully, we serve a God who is loving and good. He has patience with me and continues to show me His glory.
My trust and faith are bolstered by these unexpected gifts with which He blesses us.

Sara Ashley and Mr. James

The boy winner, Jacob, is also a very special child and has been in school with Sara Ashley since that first summer camp. Ironically, the story that the teacher (mentioned earlier) wanted to share with me is about both of these students, Jacob and Sara Ashley. They have come so far in five short years. God's blessings for them both unexpected and wonderful.

I'd like to reveal to you the story this caring teacher recounted to me just a few weeks ago. I have no doubt that God knew He would continue to "connect the dots" for me in this journey when she shared it with me.

As excerpted from the forthcoming book, Unexpected Gifts:

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”

-Robert Frost

Jacob and Sara Ashley
Life Challenge: dyslexia

 They were two of the most severe cases of dyslexia she had ever encountered, and as she drove home from work that day she prayed to God for His guidance in teaching them.
“Lord, please give me the tools I need to teach these children. I want to see them succeed and I know they are capable. Please show me the way to help them.”

This was Cindy Wilkinson’s fourth summer as an instructor at the school for kids with learning disabilities and, as usual, she was teaching the little ones. She loved this age group. Their young minds were like a sponge, and when they learned, it made her heart sing. This summer, Mrs. Wilkinson had only two students, a boy named Jacob and a girl, Sara Ashley. The two had just completed kindergarten and, while both were obviously bright children with inquisitive and creative minds, somehow they had each reached this age without being able to learn the skills needed to read. As she was faced with this challenge, Cindy realized that these students were not even prepared for the curriculum of the reading program she used for her class. They would need to start at the very beginning.

Starting from the beginning was not a new concept for Mrs. Wilkinson. As a young wife and mother she embarked on a path to receive her teaching degree. She had just finished school when her daughter, Katy, was starting the first grade. At that time the “whole language” theory was being used as the preferred method for teaching children to read. Cindy was impressed with its concepts and chose to enroll Katie in a “whole language” reading class. The results for her daughter were disastrous.
As Cindy tells it, “Katy was unable to learn to read with this method. As she entered the second grade and began receiving phonics based training, things appeared to be getting better, until her teacher suddenly resigned. Katy was then faced with trying to learn to read with the instructions of multiple substitute teachers. Ultimately, she never learned to read that year either. It was only when she reached the third grade and started over at the beginning, receiving training in a phonics based program, that Katy was finally able to read.”
“Here I was, a teacher, and my child could not read.” stated Cindy. It was devastating and not something that she wanted other parents to ever experience. From that point forward, God placed a strong desire on her heart to help young children learn to read.

As Jacob and Sara Ashley began the summer class, Mrs. Wilkinson introduced the basics. Word cards and repetition enabled her students to learn the skills they needed to begin the reading process. She also utilized multiple teaching styles to engage them. As their skills progressed, Cindy praised and encouraged them. She also continued to pray for them. One day in class, Cindy recounts, Jacob made a declaration.
“My brain works different.” He said. “I learn things different(ly) than other people.”
With Mrs. Wilkinson’s reassurance, Jacob and Sara Ashley learned that “different” was OK. That despite their “differentness” they were still smart and able to learn. And by the end of the summer, with Cindy’s loving guidance, both children had made tremendous strides towards learning to read.
Cindy’s daughter, Katy, also learned that her “differentness” was OK. Through perseverance, her own faith in God and her family’s support, she is now a math teacher. As part of His masterful design, she works alongside her mother at the school for children with learning disabilities where both continue to teach Jacob, Sara Ashley and other students.

It has been an evolving journey for Mrs. Wilkinson with God using her experiences to help her bless others. Through her students and her daughter, He also continues to show her that He is forever faithful in our struggles, providing for us with His infinite love. And that He is always there for us, from the beginning and until the very end.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” Revelation 22:13

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

1 comment:

  1. Brings tears to my eyes........again. I love you all.