My first reset was back in 2003 or 2004. I was teaching first grade in a really rough area of Chicago — the school where I was working at the time ended up being featured on “Dateline NBC” because of the violence.
I was teaching first grade, which is when kids learn the foundation of their reading skills. I had one kiddo who was falling behind. He was a really sweet kid and well behaved and worked hard but he just wasn’t getting it. I spent extra time working with him one-on-one and the things I knew to do weren’t working. And I thought, “Wow, there has to be a better way. I’m not being very effective.” I realized I needed to reset my skills as a professional.
I was venting to a friend’s mom who is a learning disability specialist. And she said, “Why don’t you get into learning disabilities and get some training?”
I said I wasn’t sure the child had learning disabilities, but she said, “It doesn’t matter. That training, learning the skills and strategies will help you no matter what. It will help you teach all kids, regardless of whether or not they have a learning disability.” And she was right. Through my graduate work, I acquired a different lens through which to understand learning and teaching.
And I totally understand myself differently as a great side benefit of the whole graduate school experience. I looked back at my own little difficulties in school and understood why certain things would be harder for me than others.
This really upped my game as a professional and totally reset my career. I’m on a very different path. I was really well instructed on how to understand and get to the bottom of learning differences which I share in my book, Learning Decoded.
There’s another layer to this reset. My youngest — my six-year-old — was diagnosed in January with ADHD. It didn’t throw me off, and I certainly didn’t freak out. And now I’m really having to implement some of the strategies I learned [in grad school] at home. We’re much more structured, I give him charts and checklists and things to help him stay organized and stay on task. I cue him differently. And then I take that into the school. I actually work as his advocate now, resetting my parenting.