Many of us at NoSidebar know the benefits of living slowly, but what happens when it becomes a necessity- when we need others to slow alongside us?
I struggled at a young age with several Invisible Challenges –
Hyperactivity, dyslexia and auditory processing challenges. No matter how hard I tried, I could not slow down enough to attend; therefore, I missed blocks of information in school. Because I could not focus like the average child, I was unable to learn at a similar pace as other children and fell behind in my academic studies.
I did attempt to express myself in regards to my needs, but I was not very smooth in my communication, so I made up for it in my personality and my athletic ability. I also excelled in befriending my teachers and went to great lengths to figure out how they ran their classes and learned about extra credit.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the method that I was using in grade school and high school, no longer would work in college. The professors felt emotionally distant. A “Here’s the work, here’s the deadline” attitude was drastically different than the style of schooling I knew and was not conducive to my way of passing a class. Receiving a failing grade of 42 on my first western civilization test confirmed this. I had already slid into my University’s June/January program where you could attend college in June immediately following senior year of high school. Passing with three B’s meant eligibility to return in the fall; any lower grades delayed return until January.
Starting classes in the Fall did not look possible, when my western civilization professor, Dr. Muncie, handed back our first tests that day in June, 1983. He expressed that he was disappointed and couldn’t believe that everyone in the class had failed the test. Obviously, he never taught in the June/January program before. Didn’t he understand that these students had Invisible Challenges™? I studied the professor more closely, with sharply honed skills, and I realized that he didn’t get it. I decided that I would tell him the truth about what really goes on in a classroom.
After class, I went to his office and explained that I had been observing other students for years, and I knew the different types. I explained how most of them weren’t following him because he was too quick. He needed to write some kind of outline on the board. But most importantly, he needed to slow down. I finished my monologue, with an attitude of “You gotta get this, it’s important and I know what I am saying and observing is correct.” This was not my usual method of using my bubbly personality to connect to a teacher in a school setting. I looked at this gray-haired man sitting in his office chair, with a blank look on his face, and he said, “I will make a note of it.” I nodded, said thanks, and quietly walked out of his office.
“What did I just do?!” I said out loud on my way back to the dorm.
I shuffled into class the following Monday, after Dr. Muncie had plenty of time over the weekend to laugh over beers with his fellow professors at the freshman who told him how to teach.
What would he do? Would he make it even more difficult for me? Did he even understand? I waited in anticipation, a little embarrassed, a little excited. Had I developed a new coping skill or was my college life over before it began?
Dr. Muncie walked in the room, picked up a piece of chalk. “A little bird told me,” he said as he winked at me, “that I was going too fast and that I need to slow down and write an outline on the board, so here goes.” He turned his back towards the board, with chalk in hand, and started to teach. I received an 88 on the second test.
Before the third test, I went to his office before class. As soon as he saw me, he said with a chuckle, “What did I do now, am I teaching okay?” I said smiling, “No, you are teaching fine. I just want to know if I could take that test in a quiet room. To eliminate distractions and all.” He said yes and I received a 92 on that test.
What Dr. Muncie did may not seem profound to the average person, but to me it meant everything. From that day forward, my life changed.
This moment revealed the act of self-love, self-advocacy, the willingness to change and how you can not only live, but thrive in this world. Because he listened to me, it showed that I could make a difference in the world. Dr. Muncie provided me with a bridge that was necessary for me to connect to the next part of my life. Today, I am the Founder of a non-profit called Teamwork Wins, as well as, an author, speaker, coach and radio talk show host. Who knew?!
Sidenote: A recent letter from Dr. Muncie in response to reading my story:
The personal note and summary of your experience in the 1983 History of Civilization class were pleasant surprises and another reminder of the great career I enjoyed in college teaching.
Your memory was pretty accurate, although your performance was a little better than you recalled. You remembered grades of 42, 88, 92. A check of my grade book revealed scores of 56, 92, and 89. That performance earned a B for the course and a fourth-place finish in a class with 3 A’s, 2 B’s, 3 D’s and 6 E’s.
Not bad for a young lady who failed the first test.
Dr. J Muncie
About the Author: Adele Saccarelli-Cavallaro is an author, speaker, mentor, and radio talk show host. She is the founder/CEO of a 20-year-old non-profit organization called Teamwork Wins, assisting children and young adults with Invisible Challenges in becoming self-directed, free-thinking and creative individuals.