Thinking Outside the Box

I posted this two years ago but I deleted after comments that I received in real life, the comments from the blog were fantastic and supportive. And today I am publishing it for the literary ace that is Celine Kiernan after reading this post. 
I do not believe in labels and neither, thank god does my family.
I was the type of kid who said things like, ‘look, I got a library for my birthday,’ when I had meant to say book. The letters b and d floated around the place and the letter s scrambled off the page. Teachers mentioned the words mildly dyslexic but it wasn’t entertained. I was creative and thought differently and my mother celebrated that by not sticking to labels. And she celebrated creativity by always asking me to make her something or write her a poem or a story for birthdays and mothers day rather that buying her things.
Yeah, I did just have to Google dyslexic for the right spelling and yeah I use to laugh when people say the joke about it being an ironic word as its too difficult for the people who have splashes of it to spell. But I don’t laugh any more at it. I don’t need to.

Aside – when helping pupils with their reading I show them this phonics video and get them to capture the letter on the page with their fingers (so they don’t fly about the place, obvs), and I tell them to use the punctuation to breath. 

Here is my original post, the one that was nominated for an international Edublog award 2011.
OK so this is something that I did not want to have to share, but I feel that I have to. I am dyslexic, not so bad that it has hampered me or my academia, but it has affected me in relation to spellings, writing and reading. I first realised that something was not right when I was in school. I couldn’t learn spellings. I had to think outside of the box all the time by; using my dictionary, looking back through my copy book to find the spelling I needed, asking the girls sitting beside me, looking at the wall posters to see if the spelling was there and last but not least scribble. Sure, I was given out to for the bad writing but not the spelling. The poor teachers could not tell how bad the spelling was if the writing was worse. But then, I realised that if I wrote creative stories that the teacher would be so impressed with my work, she would not give out to me as much for the spellings. I used this tactic to much success; my stories became better, more visual, creative and inviting. I was praised, told I had a nice turn of phrase, this lead to me paying attention to the people around me, absorbing their turn of phrase.

Remembering such thing as: phone messages, shopping lists, appointments even remembering what I read….was pretty much impossible for me. I had two options; write then down or turn everything into a joke like I was some really easy going person. I picked the latter.

When it came to maths, it was harder to hide. I was given out to, constantly asked why I had a 6 in my answer instead of a 9. Multiplication tables were an absolute nightmare for me. I just could not learn them off my heart. So I didn’t.

Secondary school was easier, more pupils; busy teachers had less time. Maths became about formula’s and boy did I love formula’s. It was strange; these little squiggles told a story. And I liked stories! So I would simply follow the story of the squiggles, plug in the numbers when needed and got the answers. I followed these squiggles to University of Limerick, I studied Information Technology and Telecommunications, I liked it, I could sit down the night before the exam and follow those formula’s, play with them for a while and would have all the study done for my exams the next day. Now, teaching, teaching was hard, especially Teaching Practice.

I worked in IT and accounting, the only English I used was in emails or word which both had spell check. I set up a default signature saying, “Thank you in advance for all advice much appreciated.” For some reason I could not spell “appreciated” I tried to learn it, every day in fact, but for the life of me, it would not stick. Working in IT and accounting was a dream come true; it was all squiggles, fixing computers or making software my slave! And apart for that one time, when a senior dictated an email and then make fun of me for mis-spelling ‘appreciate,’ work was fine, great even. (Update, every day I use that word in email correspondence and I still cannot spell it. But I march on.)

The draw-back; I had to read procedure manuals, I would get dizzy after one minute of reading, and so I would stop and just mess around with the software. This lead to finding shortcuts no one else knew about. I would then write a new procedure manual, but my trick was to use pictures, a lot of pictures. So the text was minimal, funny thing was – my manuals were a huge hit! I was told time and time again, “You should be a teacher.” As I had to come up with my own way of learning, I always had an interest in learning and teaching. I didn’t stop to think about my spelling, grammar or basic maths skills. I knew that with time and doing more prep work I would be a great teacher. Besides, that is what F7 is for!

The post grad was extremely difficult, not due to the learning. Learning is easy for me, I link it to already known info, I make it into a fun story, I retell it to an empty room, I draw pictures on text – all of this helped me have an edge. My lateral thinking is so out of the box that the post grad was a walk in the park for me. The difficult thing for me was writing lesson plans, my ideas were great (obvs!) but the typing….that was tricky. I can touch type but my fingers get confused, my brain gets tired, I get dizzy. But a life-time of this just made me more determined. Sure, I had typos in my lesson plans, but luckily for me most inspectors simply told me to take more care, use spell check and take my time. I probably should have told people that I was doing my best but dyslexia just makes it harder. I never told anyone, always thinking; “It’s not so bad that I can’t read, no point in making a big deal.” Maybe it’s an Irish thing, I thought if I told people I was dyslexic they would laugh at me and say “a dyslexic teacher, come on, get real!”

When it came to reading aloud in class I had to per-read text and maybe draw a few pictures in the side. Telling the story was fine, once I took a few deep breaths. When the words flew about too much I would rely on the kids, I would pick some teacher helpers and they would sit in my seat and read. I would sit in their seat and listen. You know, they loved that. We became a team, they knew that I didn’t know everything and that I did well in life, so there was hope for all of them. 

Now when I get sunning days I have to hide my smile if the teacher says, there are a lot of special needs, is that OK?’ I always reply, ‘grand, sure, we are all special needs in our own ways!’

 So, there you have it. I apologise if you see spelling mistakes. I try my best; I don’t know how to do any better.

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