Sun Serial: A Mother’s Journey | Part 12 — The defining moment

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Editor’s note: Since September, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a Pleasant Street tutoring center set to open early this year. This journey has not been without its roadblocks.

Creativity, as defined by Robert E. Franken, “is the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others and entertaining ourselves or others.”

If that doesn’t sound like an attribute every human on this plant should possess – even in small doses — then I have a skeptical vision of our future.

Brooklyn's creative mind seems to be a stumbling block in her education, at least according to explanations Giselle has received from WPS staff.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

Brooklyn’s creative mind seems to be a stumbling block in her education, at least according to explanations Giselle has received from WPS staff.

Brooklyn, my daughter and inspiration for The Learning Hub,  has been categorized – negatively – as a “creative” person by her endearing public school.

Creativity, as defined by two staff members of Worcester Public Schools, is something possessed by a student who is “falling behind in reading” and “lacking a certain structure to maintain a neat desk” and (Oh, this is my favorite one) “not cut out for school.”

That’s right, WPS faculty has told me that my child, at the tender age of 8, may not do well in school because she just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the kids and the one-size-fits-all education model that seems to be extremely successful if you do not have ADHD, dyslexia, a language barrier or are simply a visual learner.

If you do not have any of the above – or any other learning disabilities – then, welcome to the WPS system, where your future is bright and merry.

For everyone else struggling with a form of learning disability – not a term I like to use – you will find yourself fighting every second of the day to prove yourself capable. And that’s OK.

Does Brooklyn have areas in the academic setting in which she struggles? Absolutely. (Reading comprehension, to be exact.)

Should these areas be addressed? Absolutely, show me the way!

While recently sitting in a meeting with WPS staff members – some of whom do not have direct relevance to Brooklyn’s academic success and could not formulate a strategy to improve her reading; hence, why I am still puzzled by their presence at this meeting – I was scolded like a child for deciding against leaving Brooklyn behind in the second grade last year.

“She made an excellent candidate for the second grade. To repeat the grade would have allowed her success this year, yet you took that away from her as a parent,” said a staff member I will allow to remain nameless.

Brooklyn made immense strides in second grade (says her mom with as little bias as possible). She gained five letter grades in her reading comprehension testing and began to fully enjoy her reading. She was less stressed – a factor of her life that is hard to control at this young age and is always at full bloom because of her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD] – and regained her confidence.

So, how, as a parent, can I tell my child her progress in second grade wasn’t good enough? How could I look her in the face and tell her she isn’t ready? How can I tell her all of her hard work was a waste?

Maybe my logic is backwards. Maybe my ADHD [Editor’s note: Not diagnosed, though suspected by a former doctor.] is hindering my decisions and I am not thinking as clearly as these scholars who sat before me in this meeting, but I just don’t see how someone can tell another person what they are and are not capable of accomplishing.

For me, telling a child they are incapable of doing something is simply dismissing their existence. Embedding the notion that they are unworthy of something because they will fail, is not an ideology we should be teaching our students.

It does not only kill confidence, but it also kills creativity – the tool we need to constantly evolve as a society.

Every morning, Brooklyn and I start with a mantra: “Be epic. Be amazing.” It is simple. I repeat myself every day hoping that she understands the definition of failing. Failing is finding an important lesson and inviting nonstop growth.

These mantras are an important part of GIselle's, and Brooklyn's, day.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

These mantras are an important part of Giselle’s, and Brooklyn’s, day.

It seems the school has adopted the wrong concept of “failing.” Students, like Brooklyn, are not failing because they are a letter grade behind in reading or take longer to solve a math problem. These students are succeeding because they have not given up their desire to be great at something that does not come naturally to them.

Brooklyn may not be reading the classics by Hemingway and interpreting the literary connections in “A Farewell to Arms” yet, but Brooklyn is excelling in her areas of interest. She has received a perfect grade in every science test, can tell you details of endangered animals and the environment – through her own reading and discovery, and not through any material given at school — and has grown substantially in her math skills.

While some students achieve greatness within the subtle lines of a book, some find themselves reaching into the developments of scientific study and life sciences, while others embrace their talents through mathematical problem-solving.

We can’t be great at everything, but we can be great at what makes us who we are. If we were all perfect, what would we strive for as a human race?

I have always struggled with ADHD-like symptoms and I don’t know where I would be right now if it wasn’t for my constant thirst for learning new things and my ability to adapt to different environments and work styles. These quirks have been my superpowers.

While Superman is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, I am the one that is truly faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

ADHD can give you a heightened sense of the world. These symptoms are what I believe cause my persistent creative nature, my ability to multitask between several projects, and even my resilience. If I could give an entrepreneur advice on how to be successful, I would simply say, “Act like you have ADHD.”

It definitely has its drawbacks, as I am a huge procrastinator (always working better under pressure), am easily distracted (opening six browser window tabs before I even start working because I know it will eventually happen), and can be disorganized every so often (never try to read my notes — they’re incomprehensible).

But these drawbacks are mere side effects when looking at the bigger picture. I take on all of the advantages and embrace them.

Brooklyn will be epic in life, not because I think she is going to break ground on some new scientific technology – although very plausible – but because I know she will understand what it truly means to fail.

She will understand, the moment she starts to limit herself will be the moment she will experience inevitable failure.

To follow Giselle’s journey from the beginning:

Part 1 — The Brooklyn trip

Part 2 — The Playbook

Part 3 — The space race

Part 4 — The unsettling score

Part 5 — The point of no return

Part 6 — The poetry of motion

Part 7 — The keys to success

Part 8 — The stumbling block

Part 9 — The Learning Hubby

Part 10 — The next breath

Part 11 — The imperfect storm

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