At a very young age, I wanted to be a teacher, not because I had a teacher who warmed my heart or anything Hallmark-y like that, but to the contrary.
I started off as a problem child. I picked on other kids, I refused to share, I intentionally colored outside of the lines, I threw my lunch at other kids, I stuck my gum under the desk, I tattled all the time (only most of it was untrue), I shoved crayons up my nose, and I liked to whine. I was probably the kid that makes their teacher drink a couple glasses of wine at the end of the day when he or she gets home. Yet, I had one teacher in first grade who saw in me a gift for language and story-telling and who decided to put my fibbing and off-task writing to good purpose. When sent to the Above and Beyond class rather than the principal's office, a problem child flourished with new, innovative, creative, and collaborative projects that made me feel nurtured and intellectual.
A savvy, seasoned teacher saw that a problem child was more than that, she was bored.
That was probably my best year in elementary school and I remember it still. My parents are still friends with Miss Savvy and she remembers my marked improvement to this day.
The next year, my parents decided to send me to private school.
There were no special classes for special cases, only interventions. I was treated like a problem child again, mostly for talking too much, and instead of seeing that I was bored, the teacher only saw my poor grades in math and sent me to the specialist.
All the other kids made fun of me and said that I spoke out all the time because I was dumb.
The specialist didn't care to know that I tested gifted far beyond anyone in my grade in language, all she could focus on was my deficiency in math, one that I have yet to get over.
For the next two years, I was shuffled around and treated like a special case. My parents were advised to hold me back a grade. My mom said that she was outraged. I had once been a gifted student at my old school and if I needed to be held back it was because I wasn't receiving the instruction I needed or deserved.
The next year, my mom became my teacher. I was home-schooled for the next four years. My mom missed her calling to be a teacher to lots of other deserving children, and instead made me her sole pupil and her legacy as a teacher. She was the best teacher I ever had because she encouraged me to keep my head up with math, gave me one-on-one instruction rather than being expected to keep up with 25 other kids. And the best part was that she gave me plenty of time for the things I was passionate about. If I wanted to spend 25 extra minutes reading about the fall of Rome, I could do that and then make up my other projects later. I wasn't on a schedule to keep up with other kids. If it hadn't been for those years, her instruction, one-on-one time with the things that I was passionate about, I might never have been a thinker, a scholar, a writer, a history buff, or an English major.
The question is, are we "failing" kids by not letting them uncover what they are good at? By keeping them locked into a schedule and held to the same page as a bunch of other kids who are all learning differently. I simply don't think our education system is able to treat kids as individual cases and many of them get lost in the system.