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I want to tell you a personal story today, but it’s not entirely self-indulgent. There is a moral to the story that is relevant to educators. So here goes.
My younger child, Devin, began doing poorly in school in 7th grade. Some might say that he “struggled,” but that word implies effort, of which there was none. I asked the boy what was going on. Why was he doing so poorly in school? “Dad,” he told me, “I just don’t give a flip about school.”
When I told my friends about this, many of whom were special ed types, it was suggested that I should have the boy tested. Maybe he is hiding the fact that he finds the work difficult. He tells you that he doesn’t care, but maybe something else is going on. Have him tested.
Mrs. Dawg and I followed that advice. We took Devin to an eminent psychologist who was a professor at UT and an expert witness in some of our special education cases. He did the full battery.
I was nervous about the results. I did not want some smarty pants psychologist to tell me that I had raised a child with an emotional disturbance. Moreover, I knew how you people (some of you people) talk about that. “The acorn does not fall far from the tree.”
The exchange with the good doctor went sorta like this:
DAWG: Does the boy have a serious emotional disturbance?
DOC: No. He seems pretty well adjusted on that score.
DAWG: How about a learning disability?
DOC: Nope. We tested for that, but found no sign.
DAWG: Well, then, it must be ADD! Is it ADD or ADHD?
DOC: No sign of any of that.
DAWG: Well….you did a lot of testing. What does it show?
DOC: The testing shows that your boy doesn’t give a flip about school.
So that was it!
Here is a quick summary of the ensuing decades: at 16 he dropped out of school. At 17 he got a GED. At 21 he enrolled in Austin Community College where he racked up a 4.0. From there he went to the University of North Carolina Asheville. He got a Bachelor’s Degree, and then a Masters in Creative Writing from Adelphi University in New York.
Today Devin is the proprietor of Daymoon Coffee Bar in Asheville where he resides with his wonderful wife. He is a responsible and involved citizen, a thoughtful and well read person, a wise and supportive employer. He writes prolifically and well. And today is his 40th birthday.
Some of you have children of your own who fit this profile. All of you know kids in school who are like this—smart kids, talented kids, who don’t seem interested in what the school has to offer. My experience is that all flowers bloom at the right time. The right time may not align with mom or dad’s preferred timing. But blooming time happens. Just keep providing the support and encouragement.
DAWG BONE: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEVIN!