I began interning at Blue Tomato Learning Center in 9th grade. Initially I worked only with 6th and 7th graders, helping them primarily with math and science. I loved watching my students gain an understanding of the material we were studying. I enjoyed my work with them and think I did a good job. I am not, however, most proud of my work with the students who quickly understood the material. I am most proud of my commitment to the students I worked with in subsequent years: students who truly struggled with the material.
These two students were challenging to work with because they process information differently than I do: they have specific learning disabilities. It took me longer to explain concepts to them and I had to find a way of explaining the material that made sense to them. I realized that I could use the creative problem solving I employ when I want to communicate something visually in a drawing or painting to find a way to communicate academic ideas in a way that these students could understand. In this process I learned that the creative satisfaction I find when making art can surface in other ways, and that was eye opening and inspiring.
I also learned about myself in other ways. Although I had to face that I can become impatient when I try multiple explanations of the same idea and none of them get through, I learned that I will use creativity to problem solve and stick with it to see it through. I learned to use humor to keep things in perspective, both for myself and my students. I learned to laugh at my frustration and make fun of myself, and my students in turn learned to do the same. My two “challenging” students learned pre-algebra and earth science and I learned to transcend my frustration with laughter.
I am proud of my work with these students and of learning how to teach people who process information differently. I am proud of my commitment to them, and thankful for the lessons I learned.