I was in third grade when a very caring teacher, Mrs. DeCarlo, realized that although I was “smart,” I struggled in class and that maybe something was going on. I got evaluated for IQ and learning disorders and they discovered I was Dyslexic. Having a label to put with my struggles helped me to get the right interventions needed to develop my skills to the best of my ability. I went to resource classes for the extra help, which made a world of difference.

Mrs. DeCarlo’s teaching style helped a lot too. In fact, I would say having her for third through fifth grade made all the difference for me. She was very creative in our class work. We did not sit in rows and get talked at all day like many teachers do. We did everything in group settings and break out sessions. Hands on was big for her. Math was all about manipulatives so that you could “see” the problem in real life and not just theory. Creative writing was one of my favorite parts of our week. She had many ways to include it in our daily work, such as story starters. She didn’t just explore our creative writing abilities, she also pushed critical thinking skills. We not only had to read something and comprehend it, but we had to dig deeper into the story and write about the meaning, motivations of the writer, and our opinion about the events that took place.

I think the best part of being in Mrs. DeCarlo’s class was her art center. She taught us principles of art, such as water colors; color spectrums and mixing theory; and clay sculpting. I still have some of the ceramic items I made in her class. Looking back, I realize that the art wasn’t just about the art. I gained self confidence, learned math and science, and developed a lifelong hobby that has been financially beneficial a few times.

My elementary school had the most outstanding hands on science program. We did everything by experimentation. There were set experiments, but we were also encouraged to experiment on our own accord and write up the results. We had a garden in which we learned about nutrition, the life cycle, and hard work. I have enjoyed gardening every since.

I was also introduced to music at my elementary school. This created a lifelong love of music. I think during my difficult junior high years, music was the only thing that kept me motivated to stay in school. It also helped me to keep my grades up so that I could participate in band. We had to have a certain GPA to perform at any event. That was all the motivation I needed.

I personally think that we are losing so many students today because we are too busy worrying about test scores instead of creating well-rounded adults. Instead of this attitude of pushing every child into a university plan, we need to realize that many students are not suited for such a plan. Like me, many students need hands on learning activities to help them. They need to see and do to learn. This is where vocational education would be of benefit. Music, art, sports, and creative learning need to be brought back to the schools. Most importantly, instead of treating the test as a measure of the school’s success, treat the test as a measure of where you need to help each individual student more.

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