Following thirteen months behind my only sibling’s academic footsteps was hard. From elementary school on, she was a glowing student; absorbing, digesting, and understanding information seemingly by osmosis. She maintained straight A’s throughout her academic career and earned a college scholarship. I, on the other hand, struggled to maintain a C average and ran away from home at the age of fifteen.
Let’s take a moment and rewind...
I thought I was stupid. Compared to my sister, it certainly appeared that way. However, it wasn’t until many years later I discovered that I learn differently from how I was being taught.
There are three recognized learning styles:
When I was in school, the general teaching population were auditory teachers. A heavily tactile learner—with a smidgen of visual thrown in for good measure—I was missing the boat!
Not having done any planning before running away, I didn’t know that if you leave high school before you graduate, you can’t test for a GED—General Education Diploma—until two years after your graduating class.
Biding my time, I went to work for a large, everything-under-one-roof store. Over the next few years I worked my way up to managing the women’s wear department, then added men’s wear, and topped it off with housewares and furniture.
I gained valuable life experience during that window of time. Part of this seat-of-the-pants wisdom was learning to say, “I don’t understand. Can you please explain that differently?” And that’s when I noticed that no matter how many times someone “told” me, it wasn’t until they “showed” me that I got it! When shown, I not only met, but exceeded what was expected of me.
I left high school as a sophomore in 1973. For four long years I waited and prepared to take the GED examination. On a hot day in late June of 1977, with the cut-grass tang of summer in the air, I slipped into a front row seat at the testing center; one of about twenty other people enveloped in the sterile classroom setting.
The all-day test was given in seven parts: Language Arts (writing), Language Arts (reading), Social Studies, Science, Math (calculator allowed), Math (calculator not allowed), and United States Constitution.
Hours later—head held high with a face-splitting grin—I left the facility with every confidence that I’d aced the test. Six weeks later I received my GED certificate, and that was just the beginning. Over time I earned my associate degree, then bachelor’s, followed by a master’s degree. Finally, two weeks before my fiftieth birthday, I sat and defended my Ph.D. thesis.
Hard-wired for buoyancy and tenacious as a terrier, when I set my mind on something I go after it with tremendous resolve. It took a while, but I eventually went from GED to Ph.D. And while I’m Ph.inisheD with brick-and-mortar academia, I’ll never be done learning.