Normal Sucks

In Blog, Hustle Podcastby Eric ByrnesLeave a Comment

“The desire of sameness is a denial of life.” – Jonathan Mooney 

Just finished a book called Normal Sucks, written by Jonathan Mooney…

As a kid growing up, Mooney had all sorts of issues including dyslexia and ADHD. He was told that he had multiple “learning disabilities” and his educational future was at the mercy of a bunch of people who had no idea how to deal with hyperactive dyslexic extremely intelligent boys with all sorts of behavioral issues… 

As Mooney described it, he was the square peg they kept trying to fit into the round hole.

Through the unwavering support of his mother and the guidance of some key teachers and mentors along the way, Mooney ended up going to Loyola Marymount University on a soccer scholarship… While there, for the first time in his life he figured out the best way to apply himself academically and eventually became such a good student that he and his 3.95 GPA decided to transfer to Brown to complete his education… 

Life is full of Jonathan Mooney’s… Kids with INCREDIBLE potential, yet they also have very common learning challenges that we are still trying to figure out how to best accommodate in order for the kid to survive and thrive in today’s world.

Growing up with a similar educational experience to Mooney, I can confidently say that I myself was the square peg that people kept trying to fit into the round hole… 

Without the unwavering support of my parents and a few teachers and coaches who understood how to maximize my potential, there is absolutely no way I would be in the position I am today..

These are the people who gave me the confidence to truly believe in myself, and although my focus and ability to sit still could be an issue at times, I easily figured out that any learning differences I had could be CONQUERED with extended time & energy dedicated to the task at hand… 

Notice I say “learning differences” as opposed to “learning disability.” For me, a learning disability is when the child is incapable of learning because he or she is disabled in a way that they simply cannot achieve the educational task that is asked of them.

For years, we have wrongfully put kids in that category and for those kids that didn’t have the support system that I had or Jonathan Mooney had, they were f*cked. 

We cast them aside and just as in Babe Ruth’s case, words such as “incorrigible” were and still are used to describe them.

The reality of most situations is that this isn’t the kids fault, it’s ours… It’s easy to cast labels on people and then use those labels as excuses to make us feel better about the fact that we failed at our jobs.

Sure, there is an accountability factor on the child’s side… Kids ultimately must take responsibility for their actions, but it is our responsibility to provide the proper learning environment that will at the very least give these kids an opportunity to understand the potential that is actually there… 

So… Where do we go from here? 

Well, speaking specifically to my situation that eerily parallels Mooney’s and most likely millions of kids around the world, children need a support system that encourages them to continue to charge on despite the fact that they will be well behind the other students in the early going because of their differences… 

Secondly, kids need an outlet to properly stimulate their brains in order to learn. Now that 97% of public schools no longer have physical education on a daily basis and recess time has been cut down to an all time low because of lack of funding, we MUST find a way to create an environment that promotes in classroom movement and “brain breaks.” 

Well documented by scientists in the upcoming “Let Them Play – A Triathlon Across Americadocumentary is the fact that after 17 minutes of inactivity, our brains believe it is time to go to sleep… The only way to counteract this is by getting our asses up and MOVING.

Thirdly, one on one attention and small focus groups are critical… When properly focused and taught in a way in which the child is able to relate, an entirely new world opens up. 

Yet, these resources take time and money that the public education system typically does not have… That is why it is so incredibly important for us to support organizations dedicated to accommodating those with learning differences as well as organizations that are committed to providing and supporting in school and after school youth sports and activity programs… 

This problem won’t be fixed overnight, but the more we understand learning differences the more easily we will be able to adapt and adjust our teaching style to accommodate the needs of ALL kids, NOT just the normal ones.

Oh yea, just like Mooney said… Normal sucks anyway. 

-EB