How Did I Learn? Learning to Learn...

Two questions that have been asked of me since I learned I am hard of hearing are, "How well did you do in school? How did you learn?"

These are really great questions.  Learning that I have a significant hearing loss has helped me understand the answers to them so much more.

The simple answer, I did horribly in school.

Teachers liked me a lot, because I was a happy student, who wanted to learn.

However, my grades reflect my struggle with learning all the way from kindergarten through to my freshman year in college.

So then it begs the question, "How did you get through college?"

For that answer, I would need to start at the beginning.

One of my first memories of learning actually happened right in my own home.

My siblings and I all loved to play school.

My sister was always the teacher, and I was always the student. (At least that is how I remember it. They may tell me otherwise. But this is my best recollection.)


This is where I learned all of my letters.

I also learned to read in our little school.

If I recall correctly, our toy box had a chalk board on it, and we would line up two of our little chairs from our little table and chairs set, and listen closely to her lessons in our little one room school house in our basement.

Little did I know that this up close and personal, one on one instruction, would be the base for all of my learning for the rest of my life.

After I learned all of my letters, we would read little books out loud to the class.  I even learned to write my name in cursive.

This was all before I ever went to school.

When you are in a big family, I am the youngest of nine, stuff like this happens, when the rest of the world is not even noticing.

I was excited to go to school.

My first teacher, my sibling, made me realize how much fun learning was going to be.

I took all of my letters and reading to kindergarten with me.

Unfortunately when I finally went to a real school it was anything except like my first learning experience.

My teachers were very happy that I knew my letters and I could read. My report cards reflects that.

I am sure they were pretty proud of themselves. Little did they know, my sister had already taught me one on one.

Even though on my report card it stated I had a hard time communicating clearly, my reading skills and letter skills showed I could learn.

Learning in a large group setting was very difficult for me.

School was very difficult for me.

Many attributed it to the fact that my dad died when I was two and a half.

All that I knew was that it was just hard for me.

Interestingly enough I have all of my report cards. After I found out I was hearing impaired I took a trip down memory lane.  It is all right there.

"Diane is very well behaved in school. She needs to work on working independently."

"Diane is a joy to have in class. She needs to work on her academics and to work independently."

"Diane reads very well, however she has a difficult time with listening comprehension."

Right from the beginning in kindergarten there was a flag.  The teacher wrote that I did not express ideas clearly, however I had a strong interest in reading.

Some years they had me re-do the standardized achievement tests one on one.

The years I did the best were the times I had to retake the test one on one. When I say my best, it is a relative term. My scores are nothing to write home about.

Even with the one on one, my listening comprehension portion falls into the low average, and some years below average.

So the signs were there.

It always puzzled me why it was so difficult for me to learn when I loved to read and write so much.

I would go home from school and directly pick up a book or write in my journal.

I would read everything I could get my hands on.

I loved learning.

So if I loved learning, why was it so hard?

I know now why it was so hard.

If you can't hear like the general population, and you are very significantly hearing impaired, learning will be hard.

When it came time to go to college I took my ACT and did only ok. Which was par for my course.

I was grateful when one of the UW schools accepted me. It was the one I wanted to go to, so I was thrilled.

My first semester was a total fail. I went to class, took notes, and came out with a 1.9 GPA.

One thing was different that semester. I met a boy.

At Christmas we promised each other that we would study every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, along with studying all week long.

I liked this boy so much and I wanted to stay where he was,  in college.

So I figured out a system to learn.

Every week, I would completely read the chapters from my book before the lecture instead of after the lecture. I prepared even if the professor never brought the information up again. If it was in the syllabus, I read it, highlighted it, took notes, and brought those notes with me to class.

Then I would sit in the front row and I would mark what I heard him repeat from my pre note taking.

At the end of the week, each Friday, I would make office hours with my professors to confirm that my notes were correct or that I was understanding what they said in their lecture. I let them know that I had a hard time learning and they were very happy that I wanted to learn the material so much, so they worked with me.

As the semesters passed by, I ended up being a student that they called on in class because I was the student who understood the material.

This experience was all new to me, and I grew to love the art of learning.

I became passionate about empowering others to teach themselves before they ever go into their classes.

I believed it was the best way to learn, and as a teacher I started the first 2 weeks of my school year each year teaching what I began to call my process, "Learning to Learn".

I wanted all of my students to have this level of independence in their learning.

As a parent I taught my children the same thing. All of them went to college knowing this was what the needed to do from day one to be successful. I taught them to not be dependent on their professors, and that they needed to go to the information before the information came to them.


Now, as I look over all of my school records, there were so many times my hearing loss was almost caught.

After I found out I was hearing impaired a memory from college came flooding back.

One of my professors who was teaching a lecture on speech and hearing let me meet with him weekly to confirm my notes, just like my other professors.

One week he asked me where I learned to speak.

All of my life, I thought I had a deep voice. Which my mom had. Well, which I heard her have. It is not nearly as deep as I heard it my whole life. But it is still deep.

I said, "From my mom." Thinking he was referring to my deep voice that I had believed I had my whole life.

He said, "Well, you are copying someone, your speech is not natural."

Another missed moment.

Once I heard my voice for the very first time 5 weeks ago, I realized I never had a deep horse voice. It is very soft and feminine. I never knew that. It hit me right in that moment he was referring to my actual speech patterns and not my voice.

All those years ago, when I was told to articulate, enunciate, speak clearly, I worked hard to do that. It is very likely I was copying the speech patterns of my siblings and parents on the sounds that I severely cannot hear.

So how did I learn if I could not hear like the rest of the world? I didn't. My report cards reflect that all the way through. A lot of notes about Diane needing to be a more independent, all the way to grades that were C's and D-, with notes that say, "Nice girl."



Until I got to college.

And I met a boy....

I liked that boy so much that I wanted to stay with him for the rest of my life.

So I figured out a way to learn so I could do that.

I graduated with about 3.24 or a 3.42. Neither of us can remember which one.

That boy was John Grover.

What a difference one person can make in your life.




This entry was posted on Monday, July 11, 2016. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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