When I became a classroom teacher, I finally felt I was in my element. This is where I thought I could make a real difference and besides, it’s in my blood. My grandmother and mother both began their adulthood as teachers so it was no brainer that I would thrive in a career as a teacher. I even began playing school with my special needs sister at a very young age in the corner of the dining room, complete with desk and chalk board propped up on a chair to enclose our “classroom”. Teaching is in my DNA.
It was a thrill to see my students experience the joy of discovery and watch them make connections to grow into eager learners. Above all, I loved teaching children to read. It felt like giving them the key to unlocking all of their potential. It was especially important to me to teach kids to read well because I grew up knowing that reading was the greatest struggle for my own dad and younger brother. They must not have had the right teacher or one that used the right method for teaching them to read, so I was going to make sure that MY students had the benefit of my expertise, focus, dedication, passion, and commitment. I want to tell you that I was 100% successful with every student – but that would be a lie.
Can't be MY Fault, Can it?!?
There were certainly many students that were hungry to read and for most of them – it came rather easily. For a few, it was difficult and for others, downright impossible. With my high success rate in teaching kindergartners to read, I found many reasons why the fault lay elsewhere – it couldn’t be my lack of ability to teach. No way! Their parents must not be reading with them daily, they must be too immature and just weren’t ready to begin learning to read, they lacked focus or were too hyperactive, and sadly – I even thought that some were experiencing trouble because their cognitive ability was lacking so they would always be behind.
When I started teaching 2nd grade, the blame that some of my students weren’t good readers had to rest with their former teachers, parents, or even with the child, themselves. Accepting the challenge, I doubled my effort and offered after school tutoring, increased guided reading groups and focused on phonics. I even referred students to work with a very experienced Content Mastery teacher in small pull out groups. I saw minor improvements but with all the extra effort, nothing seemed to help bridge the gap and get them on grade level.
I was discouraged – no, defeated. Every child should be able to learn to read! What was missing? What was I NOT doing? What instructional strategy was eluding me? I went to training, revamped my instruction, and implemented new techniques. Each effort yielded minimal, if any, improvement. I was feeling like a teacher FAILURE.
What's the Secret???
Then, I began to notice some remarkable reading improvements in two of my students. I was mystified because they were both receiving special education services and were pulled out of my classroom for two hours daily to go to another campus for their ELA instruction. Hmmm. I was also approached about referring another two students, due to beginning of the year reading assessment scores, for dyslexia assessment. They were both identified with dyslexia and began going to a small group intervention for 45 minutes a day with our campus dyslexia therapist. I didn’t know much about dyslexia at the time. I thought it was seeing words backwards and reversing letters when writing. But, if our dyslexia therapist could help them, GREAT!
These two students also began making measurable, significant improvements. My curiosity was piqued and I had to know what was going on in that therapy room. What did these teachers know that I didn’t? Where did they discover the secrets that created these amazing transformations? I had to know.
Mrs. Laney, our campus dyslexia therapist was more than happy to share.
Here’s what I learned.
- Dyslexia is a neurological difference in the way the brain functions.
- Dyslexics are smart – often, exceptionally bright. They are creative, out of the box thinkers, and great problem solvers.
- 1 in 5 students are dyslexic and need a multisensory approach to learning to read that works best for the way their brain works.
- They will continue to struggle with the conventional methods of teaching reading and will have increasing levels of frustration – like beating their heads against a wall. What’s that saying? – the meaning of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.
- They may act out, have behavior issues, avoid work, lose (forget, hide) assignments, etc. etc.
- They must receive the appropriate reading therapy for real improvements to be realized.
And so, I started on a quest to become a dyslexia therapist myself, and learn the secret code to teaching students with dyslexia to read – because I was meant to make a difference in the lives of others! I would “be the change” in their lives. Sounds so noble, doesn’t it? What I didn’t realize at the time, was the HUGE change that would occur in ME. There is nothing more satisfying than working with students with dyslexia and my role as a dyslexia therapist. Learning how to implement the appropriate curriculum and techniques of multisensory teaching, I am blessed to witness truly miraculous transformations in students and not just in their reading skills but in their self-worth, too. They become more confident, more assured of their talents and abilities – of which there are many! I’ve since come to realize that both my dad and brother are dyslexic. It is such a shame that they both grew up thinking something was wrong with them. They, and my students, are my inspiration and the reason I’ll never go back to “teaching” in a classroom because there is nothing like being a dyslexia therapist – nothing.