crane

Unintended Side Effects

We had our teacher-parent conference last night, and brought Jet along as it is as after school. He's doing pretty well. Amusingly enough he's having the same problem I've always had in school, he's having problems spelling when he's writing. I never could spell even common words very well, I thank the Internet for bring spell-checking into my browser window. *laughs*

Anyway... he's doing really well, and his spoken vocabulary and idea space really has the teacher jazzed about him. So that's to the good.

The amusing thing is that I wore my tie dyed socks (which immediately had both heels blown out as I'd dyed OLD socks...oops.. I'll have to jazz 'em up more with heel patches or something).

When the teacher teacher noticed that I had tie-dyed socks. Jet got all excited, pulled down the front of his pants and said, "LOOK! I'm wearing tie-dyed underwear!!"
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Oh, how cute - but shocking! =D

Although, i have shown off my tie-dye underwear, too...
LMAO! Oh what a kid. :D

Precious memories... for his wedding day. :p
Hee.

It is good, I think. At least not afraid of stuff like that. It's just his underwear.... *laughs*
Lol, that's too great! (Funny he did that, and awesome he's got tie-dyed underwear.)

Now you can save this story and embarrass him when he's older by reminding him. (That is, if it embarrasses him?)
Hi, friend of a friend dropping in to your journal again. If you don't mind, there's some things I've always wanted to ask you about your issues with spelling:


  • What do you think is the cause of your problems with spelling?
  • Why do you think other subjects such as math and physics were/are not as much of a problem?
  • Suppose the criteria for college entrance were changed to include things like a spelling test. Assuming you still wanted to go to Caltech, study engineering, etc., what would you have done to improve your spelling? Do you think you could have done that without sacrificing anything else that you are good at?


FWIW, I have BS and MS degrees, but I never considered myself in the same league as you. No one would ever base any character in a movie like Real Genius on me, for example.
Oh, the same reason Jet has problems with spelling, both of us treat it as a rules-based problem or a "sound it out" problem rather than a straight visual memorization problem.

I'm actually getting much better at spelling since I figure out it was a visualization memorization problem, and now I have quite a few more words memorized rather than trying to 'sound them out' or apply rules that don't work most of the time.

Math and physics, especially at Tech, weren't memorization, they were the understanding of base principles and applying them. And in math and physics, once one understands how and why, the effects can be applied consistently across all fields of thought. That's the beauty of those sciences.

The spelling of English is anything but consistent.

As to the last question, I actually got a 800 on the Verbal part of the SAT, and it included a lot of word recognition. I studied Latin roots and other things, Greek, and bits of the other languages English derives from and that actually helped a lot of my vocabulary needs. Though, like Jet, I didn't actually lack in vocabulary and the underlying mental ability to use the conceptual reach a larger vocabulary gives most people. I just couldn't write it down from scratch. So the SAT's and AP's multiple-choice format worked quite well, but the essay part of the English AP got a little messy in that the ideas I presented intrigued the tester, but my spelling... well... I still got the 5, but got some interesting comments.

I don't think being good at spelling would necessarily sacrifice anything else. But I actually try to memorize as little as possible, I even write stuff down in this journal just to not have to remember it. *grins*

*blinks mildly at the last statement*

Having a fictional character based off of me is not necessarily any measure of worth or mental capability, really. I learned at Caltech that there are people waaay above me as well. *grins* I was a punk kid when that happened, and I didn't even know it had happened until a few years later and she showed up with my verbal patterns, hair style, and three of the things she rattled off in her introduction were things I'd done. *laughs*
Hmmm ... why did you think spelling was not a (visual) memorization problem?

When you were a child, did you have spelling tests in school? I did, but I wouldn't say that I made an explicit attempt to remember how to spell certain words. If anything, I remembered the words from things I'd read.


Edited at 2008-10-10 11:21 pm (UTC)
I think two different things. One was that I lean towards rule-based systems, conceptual things.

The other was that nearly everyone says, "Just sound it out!!"

As if it were obvious...

When I read, oddly enough, things like spelling and punctuation go through. I don't notice the details that much at all. Again.. I head for the concepts not the specifics. Just general disposition, I guess.
This has been very helpful. I hope you don't mind answering a couple more questions:


  • Did your parents know about your difficulties in spelling, and if so, did they discuss with your teachers how you might improve?
  • Did you know any people who were really good at spelling, and if so, did you wonder how they were able to be good at it?


To get an idea of the intent of my queries, I'm trying to understand the nature of the highly talented mind – how the talented learn and retain information; how they may have been influenced by early exposure; for things which they don't receive early exposure, do they struggle in similar ways to people who may not be considered talented. In particular I'm interested in how this affects people who pursue careers in the sciences and engineering, when they show promise but do not do as well (academically) as some other students. For example, if you take a look at this CollegeConfidential thread on a struggling student, you'll see an example of someone who arguably showed promise before getting into a top college, but is now struggling. Arguably, he is taking on too many things, but there are some people I've heard of who can take 7-8 challenging science and/or engineering courses, participate in some extracurriculars, and still maintain high GPAs. These people tend to be sought after by employers and startup investors, whereas others have more difficulty, and are more at risk to layoffs, etc.

The link in the previous paragraph refers to another CC thread on how people learn and process information. The OP is frustrated because he's not doing well; he feels he must understand the underlying principles before he is able to do well in classes, but it's very time consuming. He does not understand how some of the more talented students are able to do well (and the talented students are unable to explain how they are able to do well). In your case, it seems as if you got some useful, early exposure to mathematical principles, etc. that helped you become a successful engineer, but you weren't told some things about spelling that would have enabled you to do it better. But you have not been hurt by lesser spelling ability in the same ways some of these kids are who struggle in college because they don't have stronger backgrounds in math, etc.
Actually, for spelling tests and stuff I had no problems. I could memorize anything I HAD to memorize for a day or two, and then forget it.

Jet has the same tendency. He does great on spelling tests; but doesn't do very well when writing, so it didn't and doesn't show up on spelling tests. And honestly, my parents didn't care about English or Literature scores other than how they might affect how I got into college. And that was back when parents really didn't talk with teachers that much. The helicopter syndrome wasn't nearly as bad, and they never thought much of it.

Also, amusingly enough, in elementary school I had an IQ test when I was probably a little too old for it and tested below the limit for the Mentally Gifted Minors program. Two of my teachers stood up for me and said that I should be in it anyway, so I was put in; but early on I was pretty much told I wasn't going to be "smart enough" for the program.

Always had that feeling as a kid, as my younger sister scored significantly higher than I did on the IQ tests, so she was "the smart one" in the family and I was "the nice one" in the family. So I just worked harder.

It kind of stood me in good stead because while I did score really high in high school, comparatively, it wasn't like I was the best in my high school. So when I got to Caltech, I wasn't at all shocked that I wasn't one of the best, whereas 90% of the kids that got in were the number one student in their school. And when, on the first physics quiz, ALL but one guy failed it (and that one guy went on to become a star physicist), it was nigh on suicide for most of the guys. So I didn't get hit as hard, emotionally, and kept a pretty even keel. It might not surprise you that I took 7 or 8 courses each quarter my freshman year, and fenced competitively.

Principles shouldn't be time consuming, if the teachers are teaching it that way. If the classes, however, are pointing towards memorization and just specific applications (as many of the UC school physics and calculus classes were), I could see how it would take a lot more time.

And I'm not sure how those students are deemed "more talented" or not?

Mmm... I don't think it was exposure so much as the simple fact that my mind like mathematics and the concepts implied. And I don't like exception-based systems, like spelling. I still don't do well at spelling, really, even knowing it's a visual memorization problem, I just don't care enough except when it comes to differentiating between words.
Jet has the same tendency. He does great on spelling tests; but doesn't do very well when writing, so it didn't and doesn't show up on spelling tests.

OK, I should have asked the question somewhat differently, like if it had somehow mattered how well you were able to spell, say, on a written test, how you would have gone about preparing for that, and what effect this would have had on other things you need (or like) to do. Another way of looking at this is there are only 24 hours in a day, and some of them require sleep – there are only so many hours available in which "effective" learning can take place.

And honestly, my parents didn't care about English or Literature scores other than how they might affect how I got into college. And that was back when parents really didn't talk with teachers that much. The helicopter syndrome wasn't nearly as bad, and they never thought much of it.

Hmmm ... you and I are about the same age. My parents regularly participated in parent-teacher conferences, etc. Friends of my parents and parents of my friends did likewise. I remember seeing the same parents regularly at lots of parent-teacher nights. (BTW, I grew up in NYC.) I asked a friend of mine who grew up in the SFBA whether her parents were involved in parent-teacher conferences and she said yes. Perhaps it's just a regional thing. Also, my parents went to most of the teachers, not just the math and science teachers, time permitting.

So I didn't get hit as hard, emotionally, and kept a pretty even keel. It might not surprise you that I took 7 or 8 courses each quarter my freshman year, and fenced competitively.

I didn't know too many people who did that when I was an undergrad. Most people took four or five classes. Among some MIT students, it seems to have become more commonplace now.

Principles shouldn't be time consuming, if the teachers are teaching it that way. If the classes, however, are pointing towards memorization and just specific applications (as many of the UC school physics and calculus classes were), I could see how it would take a lot more time.

Well, I guess it depends on the way the principles are presented and what the applications are. The scope of responsibility a student might bear for a given class (in terms of being able to answer certain types of questions) can vary quite a lot, especially in "firehose" schools like Caltech and MIT. For example, a favorite question I like to ask people just to see if they can figure it out is which set is larger, the integers or the rational numbers, and why? The way the problem is solved is based on the principles of sets, but the technique is not generalizable to any set (e.g. reals).

And I'm not sure how those students are deemed "more talented" or not?

Well, I was sort of speaking loosely. But to a certain extent, it is the students themselves who are making comparisons with other students, like someone who might feel badly because they'd worked really hard but done poorly relative to someone like your star physicist classmate. (And it gets worse if it's a situation where the professor won't curve grades, like what happens sometimes in one of the freshman physics classes at MIT where over half the students fail.)
Hahaha oh that is awesome! <3 I adore how he doesn't feel the least bit self-conscious about it! That's such an awesome way to grow up! ^^ (generated by awesome parents for a good part, I'll bet ^___^)