Quarter 1 Reflection

October 22, 2021 2 By Allison Preble

Personally, one of the biggest challenges in managing my learning difference is having a sense of control over my learning. Even through my independent project process this need for control has proved challenging.

At the beginning of my independent study I felt out of control. The whole concept of an independent study is to allow students to create their learning process—in theory it gives me complete control over my learning. Coming into the semester I had the “big picture” concept of my project. I had written my proposal on the broad strokes of my project, but creating the steps for how I would study these topics was difficult for me. 

In a typical classroom setting, your teacher gives you a plan. Over the years, I’ve learned how to succeed in an environment where the teacher tells me what to do, and I do it. But with an Independent study, I’m having to learn in a totally different way. Admittedly, I’ve spent time spinning my wheels, shaping and reshaping my ideas and plans. The “independent” part of the study is an important and challenging component. I’ve spent a good bit of the first two months of the semester planning, researching, and organizing. I’ve also focused on seeking out experts who can help me shape a final product. Just getting started and figuring out the best process to achieve a good outcome is challenging because I don’t know what I don’t know. 

Another challenge of control is how I measure the success of my independent study.  I’ve reflected on this a lot. Am I doing enough? Am I reaching the goals? Who’s goals and standards am I working to meet? In a typical class, my success is measured by a grade. My hard work feels validated when I get a good grade. In an independent study, I am the only one who can validate my work. I set the standards. I set the goals. Being able to know and identify my good work irregardless of someone else’s validation is an important life skill to develop. The self motivation and personal accountability needed for this project are both challenging and fulfilling aspects. 

Looking ahead and looking back I can see the solid framework that I have built, and the more creative and collaborative work I am beginning. I am building on the student survey and adding a video. I plan to interview several students with learning differences who will share their stories and experiences of navigating school while learning differently. For me, storytelling is a powerful learning tool. There’s so much more to a student than a diagnosis. I hope hearing student perspectives in their own words will bring more empathy and understanding of the strengths and struggles that come with  learning differently. 

 I first started this project with a goal to highlight how important students with learning differences are to our school community. Through my research, surveys, and interviews I am getting there. I now confidently see the process and potential for my project.  But, additionally, as I’m working through the project, I’m also learning how nice it is for students who learn differently to talk to each other. I’m not sure that happens enough. Having a learning difference can feel lonely. I spend many of my lunches meeting with teachers instead of being with friends and I keep a lot of the extra things I do to manage my workload to myself. I don’t often share because I don’t ever want to appear like I can’t do or achieve like everyone else. But maybe, I need to change this mindset in myself and work to change it in others. There is always strength in numbers and power in being in a struggle together. More to come on this idea…maybe second semester?