I’m going to be brutally honest, I hated school. I was never an A student, I was more of a D and F student. From kindergarten until grade six, I was shuffled and pushed through the educational system. In kindergarten, I was incredibly shy and lacked social skills and my report card reflected numerous comments such as, “Megan is too shy she needs to talk more which would help her make new friends.” In grade one, my teacher ridiculed me and made me feel stupid. She centered me out by placing extra large X’s on my work whenever I made a mistake and would treat me differently than my other peers. In grade 2 my anxiety crippled me causing me to miss numerous days of school at a time. At age 7, I started to self-realise I was “different” from my other friends.
In grade 3, I was mentally unprepared for what had come next. I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability, a label which had caused me to repeat grade 3 as an intervention because my teachers “didn’t know how to teach me.” When grade 4 came along, nothing was working and I was forced to transfer schools into a special education program. I’m not sure what was worse, feeling confused and isolated because I missed my old friends or being spoon fed a curriculum that limited my potential. The signs and symptoms of having NVLD were written all over me yet, no educator understood how to teach me. I was continually trying to conform to a rigid and ableist curriculum and it became a game of sink or swim.
Then, in grade 6 I believe God had even greater plans for me. I met Mrs. R who I truly believe was a heaven-sent angel. Picture Matilda, when she first meets Miss Honey. I had the privilege of being in Mrs. R’s class from grades 6 through 8. During this time, she was the only teacher who understood me and was able to see past my NVLD. She found my strengths, instilled confidence in me and helped enhance my gifts. She was patient, kind and most importantly listened to me. Something every other educator had failed to do with me. Where other educators had held me back and contained me in the special educational classroom, Mrs. R challenged me and allowed me to be integrated into other classes. Every other educator before Mrs. R had failed me and saw my educational future as bleak and non-existent. If it hadn’t been for Mrs R’s unconditional love, reassurance and gentle guidance I wouldn’t have made it to high school or had been inspired enough to attend college and university.
The sad truth is, many educators will continue to fail children with NVLD because they fail to genuinely listen. Something as simple as asking a student “What tools do you need to be successful in my class?” As soon as a label is slapped onto a student, it follows them through their educational years. The problem is, what you do with that label. Do you see the label? Or do you see the student?
I was lucky and blessed to have had Mrs. R. I honestly don’t know IF I would have made it as far as I have without her. Because of her, I chose to follow in her footsteps and became a child and youth practitioner, and am now working towards my degree in disability studies to advocate for students such as myself who struggle to find their voice in the educational system. We need more educators like Mrs R. We need more empathy, love, patience and understanding. If you’re an educator reading this blog please, I beg and encourage you to please be patient with your students who have NVLD.
We are worth it, I promise you. WE ARE WORTH IT.
I’m a graduate of the Child & Youth Worker program from Cambrian College and I’m pursuing my degree in Disability Studies at Ryerson University along with a certificate in Aboriginal Knowledges & Experiences. I am a Project Social Ambassador for The NVLD Project.Share your own story