How dyslexia introduced me to my passion for teaching...
There are several distinct times that I can remember knowing I wanted to be a teacher.
The one that stands out to me, and is one of the most vivid, takes me back to my freshman year in college. At the time I was at Loyola, New Orleans. I was a journalisim major. I had a work study job back then, working the desk at the all girls dorm. I was so lucky to have that first morning shift of 6am, not really! The only other people up at that time were the ROTC boys.
One of those ROTC boys had become a good friend that year. And he stopped by as he usually did at the desk to say good morning. This particular morning "Sam" asked me to stop by his dorm and look over his English paper. I remember telling him sure and we made arrangements to stop by after lunch.
As I came in that afternoon, I can tell you the sun was shining brightly into his dorm room. He sat at his desk with a worried look on his face. He was still in his ROTC uniform. He holds the papers and warns me it's bad. I was thinking how bad could it be? He slowly hands me the paper and looks up at me from his seat like a young kid, not at all the young confident man I am use to seeing run through the quad.
He warns me again. "Be honest."
I looked at the paper, and no joke, I was shocked!
don't know if my mouth actually dropped. I was looking at the writing that looked like it had been written by a 4th grader maybe even a 3rd grader. The writing was messy. Letters were reversed. Words were jumbled together. I could hardly decipher what he had written.
He says, "I have Dyslexia."
At this point in my life, I had no idea what Dyslexia meant. I just knew he was up an English creek with no paddle and coming to a huge drop.
I wanted to ask how in the world did he get through high school. I wanted to ask how was he going to get through college.
I remember looking at his face and thinking, "Wow...this guy just trusted me with a huge secret. What am I supposed to do with this?"
I slumped down, and sat on the floor and looked up at him and said, "Okay! Let's get started..."
I remember the sense of relief he felt. He was smiling again. He was grateful and unburdened.
I think back now, and think how much he would have benefited from a computer or any assistive technology. I don't think we had an Office for Student's with Disabilities Resource Center back then. I was clueless at the time.
As a mom and teacher today, when I tavel back to that day in 1988, my heart goes out to that young man. We have come a long way with accomodations, assitive technology, laws and regulations, research, etc... But we still have a long path to pave for our children. We still have many to educate and much awarness to raise about what living with dyslexia looks like and what the future can hold.
I left Loyola during my third semester. I also dropped my major. I came home and decided to major in psychology. Being around Sam made me want to know more about how the brain worked. And as things would have it, a few months later I changed my major one more time, the final time, to Special Education.
And every time I meet a struggling student, I say the same thing... "Okay! Let's get started!"
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner