I have found that one of my most hindering personal flaws is the fact that I have always been a rather spectacularly terrible speller. This of course was discovered when I began elementary school and started to learn basic reading and writing. In reading I flourished (a bit to be expected as my mother is a librarian) but in writing I continually struggled with spelling. Unfortunately, this caused me to become greatly discouraged with my academic ability for quite some time. Throughout elementary school and middle school it was a fight for me to get my schoolwork done.
And by the time I got to high school I was very unmotivated, even though I was at that point trying much harder to get my work done. Even my initial struggles with spelling in my first years in school made me thoroughly disenchanted with homework and tests. I always preferred the parts of the day when we could read silently or draw with our assignments. And as time went on I started to refuse to do my spelling homework. Some of my earliest memories of elementary school are of my mother trying to get me to do my work.
She always believed that I could do the work and was always willing to help, but I was really stubborn. Consequently | started to have to spend extra time out of class with my teachers working on my spelling work. My testing skills in of themselves were never that great but being a terrible spelling did not help me one bit on my spelling tests; which I ultimately regularly failed. This failure to do well forced my teachers to have to punish me by doing things like making me sit on the dreaded “line” during recess and not play like the other kids.
This tactic from my teachers sort of embarrassed me into trying to do more of my work because my peers already had decided that I was the smart one, so I had to live up to that. I believe that a lot of my discontent with trying to do my work and improve stemmed from an internalized belief that I would never improve and live up to the standards I held myself to. My whole family is exceptionally intelligent, my parents both went to MIT and my older sister was in the gifted program in school; so, I felt like | had to match up with their success.
Of course my family never actually put this pressure on me it was all my own doing. My family has always been very supportive of me doing my best, rather than someone else’s best. I, however, felt that my best would not be good enough. So I kept this internalized discouraged attitude for much of my early academic career. My negative perception of my own skill slowly started to seep its way into my other subjects outside of spelling, like mathematics and writing. All through elementary school and secondary elementary school I felt deeply unmotivated to try to improve.
I enjoyed the idea of learning but in practice I always felt inadequate. It came to a point at which my teachers all felt I was a pleasure to have in class but became so concerned with my infrequency of completing homework assignments that I once spent an entire day, during the fifth grade, in the “time out” room working on necessary missed assignments. Again I was deeply embarrassed and did not tell any of my classmates where I was that day, as they still had this idea of me as this hard working, smart [kid/ student/ nerd/ girl ? ].
Then in middle school, my motivation to do my work dropped so much that | had to have my teachers sign my planner each day to confirm that I had completed my homework and had accurately written down that evening’s assignment, as a communication with my parents. This was somewhat effective and got me to try a little harder to do my work. And though I still really did not want to, I started to do my work anyway. Luckily over time I got better at my English assignments as we moved away from the focus on spelling and moved more to grammar, but my mathematics abilities continued to develop in a less than satisfactory fashion.
I was improving, slowly, but still felt very unmotivated. By the time I got to high school I had became accustomed to feeling unmotivated towards schoolwork but had also gradually started to work past that. I eventually came to accept that I would always be not that great in some subject but I did come to see my skill and talents in other subjects. Reading, for one, serves as a wonderful tool to help my literacy skills, not only because I have always loved reading but as because it helped me learn and improve my grammar skills. I often find myself having moments when I read books where I realize “oh, that’s how you spell that! “.
Also I have steadily become more familiar with narrative structure and formal grammar. Accepting that I will always be at least a little bit terrible at spelling allowed me to accept, and ultimately work on improving on, the other areas of academics that I struggle with. Also my acceptance allowed me to focus more positively on the things that I am good at (art/ music/ science) and not simply see them as escapes from the subjects that I struggle with. My journey through the struggles of academia has been long and hard fought but I can safely say that I feel like I am in a much more comfortable place with my academic skill now.
This not failing to be at least partially due to the exceptional teachers I was so fortunate to have in my last few years of public education. These teachers have helped me move past my struggles and improve my work. My experience of being a terrible speller has really been a growing process throughout my life and school experience. From the time | started elementary school to even now as a first year college student, I have had to push past my insecurities with my academic skill to grow into the student I am proud to be [now/ today? ]