Here's a bit of edujargon that I have always found particularly offensive, though I'm not exactly sure why -- 2E. It stands for "twice-exceptional," and is used to refer to gifted students with learning disabilities (oh, wait, I think we are supposd to call them "learning differences" now, but it's hard to keep up with the jargon shifts).

Anyway, I teach in a school for gifted and talented students, and we have many who are labeled 2E. In the way of children everywhere, I imagine, and adults too for that matter, our students tend to unconsciously judge and pigeonhole each other using criteria that are mostly unimportant and often completely invalid, but have the virtue of being easily measurable -- rather like the way that American public schools now judge all students, teachers, schools, and districts (digression #1 of the day, but I won't go there just now). For instance, children and adults often use reading or computation speed as markers of intelligence.

The result of this is that the kids with conditions such as dyslexia are often underestimated, and often underestimate themselves, having absorbed by osmosis the collective judgement of their peers and parents (and, too often, teachers, I'm afraid, who ought to know better). So, it's always a special joy when one of those students knocks the socks off the rest, showing a flash of that brilliant intellect that they often keep well hidden. Certain classes tend to bring this out more often than others, I've noticed -- literature and history discussions, for instance, classes that involve mathematical (as opposed to computational) or scientific thinking, drama, design and engineering, brainstorming, etc. And I'm finding that RS is one of those, as these children often have keen insight into those words that they find so hard to read on paper.

An example of this happened just this past week. Our investigation of the etymology of some word or other had led us to digress (as we so often do, and I forget how in this case) into talking about the proto-languages, which of course got us into the Tower of Babel and discussing detective work. I had mentioned that there was no written record of PIE and asked the students how we could know anything about it if there was no record of it. Students proposed various theories: cave paintings, some sort of Rosetta Stone, a frozen caveman brought back to life, etc.

Then one dyslexic, very serious boy, who doesn't often speak up in class, raised his hand. "They probably found words that were similar in lots of modern languages, then traced them back through ancient languages we have records of, and saw how they were coming together (here he gestured with his hands swooping together), then followed that path until they all joined up." And then he grinned at me, knowing that he had just launched what Andrew Clements so felicitously called a "thought-grenade."

You can imagine the stunned silence that descended on the room for just a moment -- my favorite kind of silence -- before a babel of voices broke out supporting that idea, giving examples, waving their arms around, etc.

I wish I could be sure that this moment would forever change how his peers see him, but it probably won't -- they'll forget and slip easily into their accustomed roles and perceptions. But for that one moment, at least, the class experienced a perception shift, what I refer to as a PAM -- a Perception Altering Moment -- and saw their world in a slightly different way.

And, of course, I won't forget. Which reminds me of a topic I'll have to blog about another day -- The Meditation on the Child.

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