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Master Class with John Hunter & Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence
Charlottesville, Virginia 2012

For years, I’ve been on a journey to learn about learning from the perspective of an educator as well as a student.  Much of what I’ve discovered I’ve shared through videos, wikis or presentations. I’ve historically tried to avoid writing about what I’ve learned… at all costs.  You see, I’m dyslexic.  It’s not that I can’t write, it’s that writing comes with the heavy and long carried burden of criticism, teasing and scorn from both peers and “superiors”. It’s one thing to intellectually understand that this is an obstacle and move on. It’s quite another to give up the emotional constraints that invisibly continue to hold one back, imagined or otherwise. In my case, the need to tell the story of what I’m observing and learning from my students is driving me past my discomfort and fear of judgement. As my friend Bernajean Porter would say, “This is a story that needs to be told.”

I cannot start this journey without expressing my gratitude to Jamie Baker from The Martin Institute of Teaching Excellence and John Hunter creator of the World Peace Game. In the summer of 2012, I was fortunate enough to attended a Master Class with John organized by The Martin Institute. I thought I was attending a workshop to learn all about John’s magnificent game. The reality was that I embarked on a journey where I learned so much more. Together, Jamie and John skillfully created a learning space safe enough for educators to open-up, share, vent, explore ideas, dream and identify personal goals as well as the fears and frustrations that were holding each of us back. What a magnificent gift. Space. Safety. Time. I’ve reflected on that often, thinking about how that has played out in the learning spaces I have (and will) create for my students. The space Jamie and John created allowed me to discover just how much I was still allowing my dyslexia to hold me back. I had no idea.

Here’s the thing, in that incredible learning space, Jamie took the time to educate our entire cohort as to why dyslexia is both an obstacle and an asset. While Daniel Pink has written about this in “A Whole New Mind”, it was was the first time in my life I have had an instructor that “got it” and celebrated my strengths as a dyslexic. That was powerful! We all long to be seen, not for what we can’t do, but for what we can do. We want to be recognized for our unique strengths and contributions to our communites. Unfortunately, most schools (and therefore teachers, parents and students) recognize and value only a narrow skill set as indicators of intelligence, in spite of Howard Gardner’s best efforts to educate us otherwise. Sadly, this leaves a huge percentage of our population marginalized in a world with increasingly complex problems that will not be solved by one’s ability to take a test. But I digress. The assets of dyslexia is a broad topic best left for a later post.

I guess what I want to say is that if you are someone who cannot get past spelling or grammatical errors in order to mine content for deeper meaning, you should probably move on. I don’t need trolls or flamers fanning a fire that has burned me my entire life. Hassling someone with dyslexia for making spelling and grammar errors is like hassling someone who is blind for not being able to “see” the world the way everyone else does.  I have a story to tell about learning. Not the kind of learning valued in schools today where teachers spoon-feeds kids content until they can spit it back in a test. I’m talking about the kind of deep learning that actually prepares kids to navigate through a rapidly changing world by thinking, problem solving, networking, and knowing how to learn, unlearn and relearn. If you are interested in that story, than by all means I invite you to join me in following the learning.

This is scary for me, but I’m doing it anyway.  Thank you Jamie & John for clearing the space for me to take this step!

2 thoughts on “Confessions of a dyslexic teacher

  1. Pingback: Why I teach | Follow the Learning

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