Randy Pausch, in his last lecture, said, “…Brick walls are there for a reason: they are there to prove how badly we want something…” “…A wall is not necessarily created to stop you, but rather to stop the people who don’t want something as much as you do.” Growing up with multiple learning disabilities, I developed a very intimate relationship with the “wall.”
The wall often was created by others beliefs. “You can’t do that! You aren’t old enough! You’ll never accomplish what you are attempting! You’re not smart enough!” I also created a “wall” when I believed the limited thinking of others; however, when I discovered their beliefs weren’t necessarily true, I was able to dissolve the wall, and find my own way to success.
One of my earliest memories of defeating the wall was when I was around six or seven. I grew up in a family that admired academic excellence, but I suffered from multiple learning challenges. I had a lot of difficulty with sensory over-stimulation, focusing my mind, keeping the words from jumping around the page, and remembering, but I was also very curious and fascinated by the written word.
That one particular day, I remember holding onto the railing and slowly walking down the stairs to the basement. As I descended down the stairs, the noise from the active household became muffled. When I was about halfway down the stairs I felt my body and mind relax. I stopped and sat down on the stairs. As I sat there, I began to imagine that the step I sat on was my chair and the stair above it was my desk. I was taken by how the temperature affected my skin, and the quiet made me feel calm inside. I tried a few different steps—some higher and some lower—but the physical response only happened on this one step. I wondered if I could learn on this one step. I went down into the basement and got some books, paper, and pencils to equip my new classroom. Could I learn to focus and remember in my new classroom? The answer was yes!
On that first day of school in my “school” on the basement stairs, I discovered that I could quiet my mind, focus, and even remember. The problem was not that I was stupid, the problem was the approach. Every day after school, I would return to my own school and would explore and experiment. In my makeshift school I discovered a lot about my learning process. Over the weeks, months, and eventually years of self-exploration,
I discovered that my system is extremely sensitive to sensory-overload, that I need to record all information with multiple senses, and most importantly, I need to really, really, really want to learn something and be clear on why I wanted to learn it because the effort and passion that I needed to fuel this process was enormous.
I was not the child who could see a picture of a frog and then recognize and understand that it is a frog. Nor was I the child who needed to see and/or touch the frog to understand that is a frog. I was the child who had to climb into the pond, go under water, hang out, and talk with the frog for days, weeks, and even months before my system would record what the word frog meant.
For those who can see the word frog and understand what the word frog means, they might see me as “handicapped,” but what they don’t know is that I can do what they can’t because of my unique approach to learning. In the process of learning and developing a deep and intimate relationship with my own learning process, I have fallen in love with life and myself, and because of this, I am no longer handicapped. Instead, I am a uniquely wired individual with the ability to understand life from the inside out. I also possess the ability, if I know the topic, to explain almost anything to anyone in a manner that makes sense to him or her. And this, to me, is really cool because when I was a child, others could rarely explain anything in a manner that made sense to me.
So if you ever encounter the wall, ask yourself, “Is this wall here to stop me? Or is this wall here to stop those who don’t want this as much as I do?” If the wall isn’t for you, then take the time to explore a different approach and realize that in the process you will probably discover more about life, your beliefs, and yourself.
The I Create What I Believe! Program came into being because I saw that many parents and teachers didn’t understand how to help their child or student discover, embrace, and find delight in their own unique learning style. I saw instead many children who thought they were “less than” rather then realizing the amazing gifts they possessed because of their unique learning style.
Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Brain, cites that our new global economy has created an unprecedented need for this different kind of thinker—a creative, original, and out-of-the-box thinker. I feel this need can be fulfilled in outstanding ways by our uniquely wired youth—that is if they can learn from an early age how to enjoy, delight in, and master their uniquely wired minds.
For more information about the I Create What I Believe! Program: http://www.icreatewhatibelieve.com/
If you would like to explore the I Create What I Believe! (ICWIB) Program, the following activities are currently available on the website for free (just click the link to access an activity).
Just Scribble, ICWIB Activity One: Version One video
Just Scribble, ICWIB Activity One: Version Two video
Just Scribble, ICWIB Activity One: Version Three video
ICWIB Instructional Guide: Part One
ICWIB Instructional Guide: Part Two
Labyrinth, ICWIB Activity Four
Just Scribble, ICWIB Activity One (text):
Labyrinth, ICWIB Activity Four (text):
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For more information about the I Create What I Believe! Global Classroom:
For more information about teacher training via Skype: