Growing up, I had no idea about the importance of education. I knew that I needed to attend school. I knew that if I didn’t bring home good grades I would get in major trouble. A bright child I was indeed! So much so that I knew something was wrong with me, but never would I say a word. And the lack of communication almost derailed my education at every step. Things only changed when I learned more, and became my own advocate.
School started and so began my journey. Like other children, I progressed at the normal rate. I seemed to be learning at pace with the rest of my peers. But when I got to the second grade, I knew that I was different. They could read, comprehend, and compute much faster than I could. I was embarrassed a lot. I would lose interest and find myself mentally in another place. This is when the dreaded notes began going home. I was in so much trouble for being a “daydreamer” as my teacher called it. My mom’s answer was to whip it out of me. I didn’t know how that was going to change anything, but she definitely tried!
It didn’t work.
I realized on my own that I had to work harder. I worked myself so hard throughout elementary school and I made it. I headed to middle school knowing that I had a learning disability, but still feeling full of optimism that things would be so much better. Instead, it was worse and I was failing, literally.
Imagine having to read passages sometimes 3, 4, or even 5 times to just comprehend them. Then imagine taking timed state tests. The results are what you would think. I failed all of them, every time. I was lost in a system where no one took the time to pay attention to me. My mom was a single mom who needed someone to take the time to really see that there was something wrong, and I didn’t know how to tell her I felt something was wrong. I just wanted to be like all my peers.
High school was worse, and I barely made it to graduation. Still, I got very brave and I tried college, though I felt that I could not and would not make it through.
Then I took a class in Special Education. I began to study about different learning disabilities, and found my own disability: Dyslexia. I screamed “it has a name, I am not crazy!” I began to just work on helping myself, and using the techniques that I studied, I got better at test taking, reading, and comprehending bodies of work. By the end of college, I was amazed at how much I’d achieved: A+ projects, the dean’s list, and so much more.
This is not my best reason for doing the work that I do, but it is the first reason. I truly value the fact that my job entails me encouraging parents to communicate with their kids about education, get involved, and not accept a status quo that is not good enough. Teachers need to help students explore the different types of learning, and find what works for them. It took me until college to find that out for myself, but most kids won’t make it to that point without the right support. We need to act now to make sure all kids have what they need to be at their best!
Teresena is part of The Surge Team with Memphis Lift where she works as a Senior Parental Outreach Specialist. Born and raised in Memphis, she is the adoptive mother of her niece and nephew. Outside of her education advocacy work, she loves to sing and has even been professionally recorded. She loves children — which is good since she is surrounded by them all the time.