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Sacha, the ice-skater on tarmac

When Marcus first graduated from his Bachelor of Education programme, he felt confident that he had been equipped with all the necessary skills to be a good teacher. In his first week of school, he prepared some great Maths lessons that saw the class running around the school looking for clues to solve a treasure quest. The students loved these lessons and often did their best to complete all the worksheets.

But young Sacha was finding it hard to keep up with these lessons. He struggled with Maths and could barely solve the 2-step word problems once his team found each clue. So he did what most of us would do, he let the rest of the group do all the work. He was an exceptionally quiet boy and refused to talk to anyone, especially teachers.

After a while, the group started to complain to Marcus about Sacha. Marcus did his best to talk to Sacha and encourage him to do his work with the other students. Sacha stared blankly at Marcus and nodded his head very slightly. But the problem continued and Marcus noticed that Sacha’s Maths was getting worse with each exercise. Previously, Sacha would show some effort and at least write his answers neatly. But as the weeks went by, his answers started floating off the answer line, and way out of the answer brackets. Sacha couldn’t even spell Marcus’s name correctly and addressed his worksheets to Mracus. His friends all laughed and said that Mr Acus wasn’t around to help him.

The following week, Marcus began to lose his patience and started to raise his voice when he questioned Sacha. The raised voice then escalated into full scale lung-busting yelling, something that Marcus promised himself he’d never do. Finally, Marcus threatened to call Sacha’s parents. He had initially resisted because he had a soft spot for the small bespectacled boy. But eventually, Marcus thought that it would be best if he let Sacha’s parents know.

Barely after 1 ½ months of teaching, Marcus made his first call to Sacha’s parents. But after he put the phone down, Marcus was dumbfounded.

Apparently Sacha was the livewire of the family and the prankster among all his cousins!

When Sacha’s parents bought dozens of items at the supermarket and paid for them at the cashier, Sacha was able to tell them how much it cost way before the cashier scanned all the items. As his parents were illiterate, they couldn’t help him very much in his work and left Sacha’s education to the school (and Sesame Street and Nickelodeon). But when his relatives came visiting, they enjoyed sitting Sacha down and giving him difficult mental sums to do. Although he was only 10 years old, Sacha could calculate the squares of numbers up to 5 digits. So of course, his parents were very surprised when Marcus informed them about Sacha’s inability to complete his Maths work and tendency to write ridiculous answers that weren’t even on the answer line.

Sacha’s problem persisted until the end of the year and despite all of Marcus’s additional help, Sacha didn’t show even a glimpse of the genius that his parents said existed.

Then one day, as Marcus was filing Sacha’s results into his report card and completing some administrative forms for his personal data file, he chanced upon another document in the file from the Educational Psychology Branch. It was the first time that Marcus was reading the report as he didn’t even know about the existence of such a personal file - no one had told him.

The report stated that Sacha had a condition known as Selective Mutism and would be prone to shutting himself up when he was in a tense or unfamiliar situation. He also had dyslexia, which made it difficult for him to read. The report concluded that Sacha had an IQ of 145 (which was way above the average intelligence level) but probably needed to get assistance when it came to reading words or numbers.

Marcus slumped down his chair and remembered all those times when he yelled at Sacha for his untidy work. If Sacha couldn’t understand what the question was, how could he possibly give the correct answer?

With an IQ of 145, Sacha was like an ice-skating champion forced to skate on the tarmac.

Marcus knew he had to find a way to understand him and get him onto an ice-skating rink quickly before the next academic year started.

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