This article originally appeared in The Beacon Spring 2014 issue.
A short and stiff, but validating message sits on my most recent calculus test: “Ian, [your proof] is actually a rather inventive solution, one that I had not considered before.” While the message is neither novel nor anything that most would consider particularly “special,” it is to me. Math is my worst subject.
More importantly, the message echoes the words that my parents and I were first told at The Windward School: I think differently than most people. And, I do. I’m not stupid or inattentive. My brain simply processes slower. I look at real-life problems from a different angle. It’s a common misunderstanding among the educational world, and most teachers, unfortunately, don’t know how to foster a student with a learning disability.
In kindergarten, I was the only student who hadn’t learned my alphabet and didn’t understand my left from my right. I was one of the few who wore Velcro sneakers because I couldn’t tie shoelaces. It was during this year that my parents decided to have me tested. Unsurprisingly, they discovered I had dyslexia, like my dad, and attention deficit disorder, like my mom, and that public schooling was not the answer for a student like me who needed more individualized attention. Immediately after the results were released, my parents were told about The Windward School in White Plains.
We drove there that day.
While my mom and I waited in the car, my dad, in his business-like manner, skeptically stormed into the school to talk to teachers. He was on a busy schedule. Half an hour later, however, he came out soft with tears streaming down his face, wishing he could have attended a school like Windward and hoping that I would have the chance. Luckily, I did.
My dad was never a crier though, and the emotional expression on his face only reappeared last December, more than 10 years later, when I received acceptance to Northwestern University.
Windward gave me the tools to succeed. The School gave me the foundation to not only learn my ABCs or to differentiate my left from my right, but the language base that I would need to write my first of three off-Broadway plays, the encouragement that I would need to pursue an independent math project involving risk aversion, and the confidence that I would need to start my business Surf the Wave, a summer job in which I independently distribute inflatable boogie boards around the tristate area. In other words, Windward provided me with the skills to succeed not only in elementary and middle school, but in high school, college, and life too. Windward was incredibly rewarding, both within the classroom and beyond, giving me the emotional development and work ethic that I would need to tackle future problems on my own.
Although I only attended Windward for elementary school, the community has remained with me for years afterward. Even today, I meet new students who attended Windward after me and were quick to embrace one another. There’s a certain bond of understanding between us. More important than the ability to succeed, Windward has provided me with a supportive community, an inner strength that I can call upon when tackling future endeavors. For that, thank you.