High Expectations for all- Not just the elite academically

I come from a long line of storytellers. My grandpa could keep my brother and my attention for hours by telling stories of cattle drives from Texas to Kansas that his grandpa told him as a youth. Today I would like to tell you a different story about a young boy with a dream.

In 1968 this young boy got his first exposure to a college campus when his grandparents took him to the Texas A&M football game. This eight year old had no clue about his future but he decided that day that he wanted, more than anything, to be an Aggie one day. I’m sure there are numerous stories about eight year olds having a dream and going on to realize this dream. However, this eight year old was different because he struggled in the classroom due to dyslexia.

During the course of this young boy’s school career he struggled but was able to maintain respectful grades. But, this young man never changed his mind about someday going to Texas A&M and becoming an Aggie. During this young man’s senior year in high school the school counselor began calling seniors down to his office to help prepare paperwork for college admission. This young man waited patiently, but never got the call. Finally, this young man went to the counselor and asked why he had not been summoned to his office. He was not prepared for the answer as the counselor stated he did not believe this young man could be successful in college…especially Texas A&M. This young man’s response to this was respectful, but very blunt, he said “just hide and watch me”.

Fast forward a few years and this same eight year old now holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Economics from Texas A&M University, a Master’s degree from Texas Tech University and a Doctorate degree from the joint Texas A&M University/Texas Tech University Doc at a Distance program.

While this story may not be as captivating as stories about cattle drives from Texas to the railheads in Kansas, but I can tell this story from first hand experience because that little boy grew up to be me.

While school was hard for me and could sometimes be frustrating, I would not trade with many individuals who are not dyslectic because of the journey it took me through and the lessons it taught me. The main reason my story turned out the way it did was because of my parent’s commitment to helping me and because of a few very special educators (including Drs. Shinn and Beyers on the CEN leadership team) who have mentored me through the years.

However, not every young person with dyslexia has such a success story. In fact, I’ve heard of educators who have labeled similar individuals as lazy, uninspired, and “just not very smart”.

The reality is that these youth are incredibly talented and most have an above average IQ.

As the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine Dr. Carol Grieder stated:

“As a scientist, one has to intuit many different things that are going on at the same time and apply those to a particular problem. Perhaps my ability to pull more information out of context and put together difficult ideas may have been affected by what I learned to do from dyslexia.”

Think just a minute about some other well-known individuals who are dyslexic and went on to be high achievers in life. A few include Charles Schwab, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, Nolan Ryan, Andrew Jackson, General George Patton, Woodrow Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Agatha Christie, and the above mentioned Nobel Prize winning microbiologist Dr. Carol Greider.

“I’m a professor at Johns Hopkins. Just because you’re dyslexic, doesn’t mean you can’t do anything you want to do.” – Dr. Grieder

There are also two more people that historians believe were dyslexic that were also pretty smart dudes – Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison*.

As we work collectively to improve rural education, I’m sure there is a young Albert Einstein sitting in a CEN classroom and it’s important to recognize they aren’t lazy, less motivated or less intelligent. These students simply learn and thinkdifferently…and they may have yet to find a special mentor to inspire them.

The great thing about the CEN P-20 model is that it requires all students, not just the academically high achievers to make substantial academic improvements to prepare them with the skills to be successful in the future workforce.Every student is expected to achieve and instruction is designed to provide “early wins” for students enabling them to gain confidence, improve their self-esteem, and provides a window for every student to see how the future world looks and how they can contribute to the world as they see it—not as how others want them to see it.

*There is conflicting information about Edison. There are historians who disagree that He was dyslexic. He may have not been dyslexic, but authors do agree he was definitely ADD and struggled with reading.

Collegiate Edu-Nation
Darrell Dromgoole, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist- Program Development, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service