Note: The following post had been published without being proofread, to show readers what a mild dyslexic’s writing looks like.
“If you’re dyslexic, then how can you be a good English teacher?”
“But could you do that well without extra time in exams?”
“Don’t scientist think dyslexia isn’t a real thing?”
My so-called learning ‘disability’ and my career are two things that people tend to raise an eyebrow at. People’s understanding of dyslexia is limited to understanding it’s something to do with reading and spelling, and so naturally it would make sense that someone who struggles reading and spelling wouldn’t make such a great langauge teacher… Let me be honest and upfront here: I’m diagnosed to have ‘mild dyslexia with signs of scotopic sensitivity’. I could read and write as a child, and I only started to notice a serious struggle during my A levels when I realised just how much harder I found reading and writing long pieces of text compared to those around me. It was a conversation with my dyslexic friend that lead me to bite the bullet and take the test. It was a surprisingly emotional experience, as I found myself balling with tears infront of a straight-faced psychologist as memories of faild spelling tests and my teachers red pain all came flooding back to me. I remembered how I always felt disconnected when it came to reading books, how my friend taught me to hide my bad spelling with bad hand writing, and the red pen of my teachers underlining all the instances where letters always managed to get lost at the end of my words. The psychologist confirming my suspicions felt like I had been freed.
“I’m not stupid!”
I’d always put my dislike of reading, bad spelling, and struggle expressing my thoughts on paper, down to me not being as smart as everyone else.
“But then how did you do so well in your A levels, in subjects that require a lot of all of that?”
Grit and a desperate desire to prove people wrong. I worked like a machine through my A levels, and in the end it paid off. I’d never done so well in my life, and I personally don’t think I’ve done so well since. The thing is, dyslexia doesn’t mean you can’t so something. You can, just you need to work in a different way, and it may take you a little longer than the average person next to you. I despised Homer’s Odyssey (especially the Latimore translation), but despire its denseity, I knew that book back to front by the end. It may have taken me longer to read, but I still did all the reading. I struggled a lot, and I was exhausted by the end, but it paid off.
After I was diagnosed things just kept getting a easier, as I understood the condition more I was able to alter my revision tecniques and working conditions to better suit my learning style. The extra time and Green Sticker on my essays also helped; knowing I couldn’t be penalised for my condition gave me new found confidence when it came to writing and exams. I invested in a kindle to help with my reading; it became easier, but unfortunately I never grew to really love it. and I have been known to cry over an academic journals after spending over an hour trying to get past the second page. Extra time in my exams took so much of that stress away! I was also then able to tap in on the benefits that (typically) come with having a dyslexic brain.
I am (and halways have been) a creative person, but until I was diagnosed I wasn’t aware of just how visual my mind is. When I read or listen to something, a whole movie is playing in my head. This is part of the reason as to why I read so slowly: with a brain that processes so visually, we get distratced and find it hard to stay focused as our minds runaway from us with the next great blockbuster. This is why I love studying drama, and find reading plays so enjoyable; visualising what could be going on stage and the affects said action has on the impact of the performance is easy for me. So how then can I possibly become a successful, and better-than-decent, EFL Teacher? Well, to tell the truth, I did find it hard at first. I learnt very quickly to check ALL my spellings religiously before classes, because children are not sympathetic when their teacher spells Athiesm incorrectly. Luckily for me, Language teaching has moved away from copying off the board, and towards SUPER FUN dynamic and interactice lesson plans that get the whole class having 10/10 time of their lives, all the while speaking English. I’m being sarcastic because sometimes the selling point is just THAT cringeworthy, but it is true. All of my teaching jobs have stressed the need to move away from the textbook, and focus more on conversation, and heck, I love talking! On a more serious note, my nack for creating stuff means I’ve come up with some pretty awesome lesson plans. I can visualise the impact said lesson plan will have on the students learning and ultimate absorbtion of the language. What’s more, akin to how I enjoy directing and devising plays, I love making lesson plans, so working that little bit more such a chore for me.
Moreover, my TEFL indirectly helped me a lot. In short, English is a crap language for dyslexics and coming to terms with that was a huge releif. Learning how the English language is formed and thus why my brain finds it hard to comes to grips with it has made spelling and sentence structure a lot easier for me. In turn, I’m also able to empathise very well with my struggling students. I’m very honest with them (I regularly remind them that our non-phonetic spelling is just mean), I try my darndest to help them, and when they do finally get it I dish out high tens all over the shop.
I’ve grown to love the language I speak and teach. English is super frustrating with it’s rebellious relationship with rules, but this has allowed it to become rich and diverse. The fact is, we don’t need to speak and write with perfect precision; native english speakers are so exposed to mistakes we get the gist. I keep this blog because I think it’s good to me to practice my writing, and I do not believe my thoughts and ideas should be kept off paper just because they’re not always expressed with beautifully correct syntax. I don’t write with flouncy poetic language, because i’m not a freakin poet! But that doesn’t mean I don’t try; infact, the struggle makes spotting those mistakes all the more satisfying.
So yeah, I’m dyslexic. to give you some idea of what that’s like I’ve decided to write this post freely, and to publish it without going back over it a dozen times to rid it of mistakes in an attempt to come across as a good writier. It took me 2 hours to write this post.
Check out these website for more information: http://www.dyslexia-reading-well.com/causes-of-dyslexia.html http://www.understandingdyslexia.co.uk/ http://thedta.tripod.com/id11.html http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/sep/09/supporting-students-with-dyslexia-teachers-tips-pupils http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/