I struggled at a very young age with several Invisible Challenges™, but I don’t remember exactly when I developed my unique coping skills, the skills that would get me through each grade. Hyperactivity, dyslexia and auditory processing difficulties were not conducive to traditional methods of teaching or learning.
It was difficult to stay focused with hyperactivity in school, except at recess, on the soccer field, basketball or volleyball courts, where I was able to move. Because I could not focus like the average child, I was unable to learn at a similar pace as other kids and fell behind in my academic studies.
I was intelligent, but because I could not meet educational standards in an accepted way, people perceived that something was wrong with me. I was inappropriately judged for poor grades. The system was not working for me, but everyone insisted that I had to make it work without teaching me any tools with which to do it. There was no consideration given to my unique needs to achieve the same understanding as everyone else. So, I discovered a useful coping skill to get by. Not necessarily a healthy skill, but it was a functional skill. I developed a connection with all my teachers. I knew everything about them, what made them tick and how they liked things to look. I tuned into their weaknesses and strengths, what type of people they liked or disliked, and how they wanted to run their classroom. At the time, I was semi-conscious of what I was doing. I really felt that if I could connect with them, they would at least help me get by. As a young student, I believed that since I was not very smooth in my communication and listening skills and missed much of what was being said, I had to make up for it in me personality.
If you asked them today what they remember about me, they would say “She was a great girl, inquisitive, with such perseverance. She was enthusiastic about learning, full of life, although she always seemed to struggle with the testing.” 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 were far more removed from their students and felt distant. “Here’s the work, here’s the deadline” was drastically different than the style of schooling I knew, and was not conducive to my previous coping skills. Receiving a failing grade of 42 on my first western civilization test confirmed this. I had already slid in to East Stroudsburg 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. He went on and on that day about the grades. I knew that I had to say something to him even though connecting with the professor didn’t feel very inviting. After class, I felt this surge of energy pass through me to do it! That was it, I decided, I have had enough. I would tell him the truth. After class I went to his office and explained to him about these types of students. “I have been observing students for years, and I knew the different types.” I said with such conviction. I also explained how most of them weren’t following him because he was going too fast. 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 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 reluctantly walked in to 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 us? Did he listen? Did he even understand? Would he completely ignore me? 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? My life would change at this moment.
Dr. Muncie walked in the room and picked up a piece of chalk. “A little bird told me,” hesaid 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 as he wrote an outline on the board.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, “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, who has typical learning patterns, but to me it meant everything. His words tickled my heart, bringing a smile to my face, heart and head. At that moment, I knew that I could do this college thing, and actually that I could do anything. This moment revealed that being honest speaking your truth, and asking for what you need is how you can not only get by, but create what you want here on earth. Because he listened to me and really heard me, it showed that I could make a difference in the world, in my world, with my creations. Dr.Muncie provided me with the bridge that was necessary for me to connect to the next part of my life. Thank you, Professor Muncie. This small, kind act by one professor opened me to other ideas about learning. For the next four years, I worked at catching up with my peers.
I graduated in 1989, majoring in elementary education with a concentration in speech pathology and audiology. Before me, there wasn’t a concentration in speech pathology and audiology. There was only an option for a concentration in math, English, social studies, and other standardized subjects – I questioned why this concentration didn't exist. I knew what I wanted to study.
They granted me permission to have speech pass my concentration. By creating what I needed to facilitate my education, I gained the confidence to forge an entire career path.”
At ESU, I also joined a mid-career study group, comprised of older women who were local residents of East Stroudsburg. They assisted me in learning the information that I sometimes would miss in class. I hooked them up with some of my college friends to babysit while we worked and they let me participate. When I started Teamwork Wins Ltd., a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides answers for individuals with Invisible Challenges™ in 2000, I never imagined that it would be life changing for all involved. Then again, I never knew that I could finish high school, college and teach in the public school system. As I watch each one of our programs grow within this organization, I remember my struggles with Invisible Challenges™. I remember how I got by managing these challenges and learning how to influence my teachers. My Vision is for Teamwork Wins to provide an opportunity for future generations to not have to go through the struggles that I endured. To bring about awareness of Invisible Challenges to the public, parents, teachers and children who have them. And to let them know that they are not
alone and there is an Answer.
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
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!
I read with interest the information of Teamwork Wins. You are making a significant
contribution to the lives of youngsters who need help. I am very pleased with the fact
that I played a role during your formative years as an educator.
My teaching career made it all possible and the knowledge that my students are making
contributions to young people makes life even more enjoyable.
Best wishes for continued success.
Dr John Muncie