by Don Johnston
The thing I enjoy doing most is talking with students. They have so much to say. In June, I spoke with a class from Pomfret Community School in Connecticut—it was their last week of school. The kids talked a lot about their concerns about going into their next grade (in September) and they were worried about how they will do. Many asked if I would be writing a sequel to Building Wings (my autobiography about growing up with a learning disability). I was struck by their requests, what were they looking for?
I asked a lot of questions and learned that what they most wanted to know was what it is like for me as an adult with learning struggles. I don’t know why, but I am always surprised by how concerned students are with their futures. Maybe it’s because we adults assume students are so wrapped up in their every day social life that they don’t think about that. I can tell you that from my talks with kids, and the letters I receive, they almost always mention their concern for their futures.
My experience was that it was much easier to go through college and develop a career than it was to get through primary and secondary school. Even now, I feel it’s easier for me to run a company than it was for me to get through school. In the job world, using tools and strategies are considered good ways to be efficient and productive, whereas in school they are considered a reflection of inability and embarrassment. Through my conversation with these wonderful, thoughtful students, I am really getting inspired to write my next book. Until recently, I thought that it would be boring to read a book about all of the little ways that I adapt my life to meet the demands of my job but that’s the stuff they want to know about. They always ask about my “strategies”.
I’m planning to begin writing this winter, and I’d love to hear what you and your students would like to read about in my next book. Please send your questions or ideas in the comments below.
One last thing…
I would like to express my admiration for Linda Bates and those working with the students at Pomfret Community School. When I can openly talk with a group of students and talk about their struggles so easily and comfortably, it reflects on the safe learning environment that these educators create. This environment is a prerequisite to rich learning that will be with these students forever. Thank you for your work with students like me. You are changing lives.