Friday, November 16, 2012

teacher becomes student

There was a little boy pulling an empty red wagon.  He walked around, picking things up, and placing them in the wagon until the wagon was overflowing.  I remember a dump truck, a ball, a pail and shovel.  Then he pulled the wagon all over the neighborhood, returning each item to its rightful owner.  Finally, there was a little boy pulling an empty red wagon.  The End.

That was the first book I remember reading all by myself.  The words were sparse, but I remember sitting on the floor of my dad's office / den  and reading while he worked at his desk.  He asked me about the book, so I told him the story and read a few of the words.

He told me how lucky I was to be learning to read, and what a fun process it was.  Until then, I hadn't thought about it much.  It was just part of school and everybody learns it.

And like most other kids, I worked my way up from picture books and monosyllable words to larger, more complex reading.  Never much thinking about it.

I currently have a student who has dyslexia.  I'm certainly not a dyslexia expert, I was hired for other purposes, but dyslexia is part of who he is.  He is a bright, articulate, critically thinking, high school senior.  In fact, he's so bright that sometimes I forget he has dyslexia.  Until he reads out loud.

I was thinking I should learn a little more about dyslexia to help me to better tutor him.  Coincidentally, I have a friend who works for the school district where I am a crossing guard.  Coincidentally, she is an expert in dyslexia.  Coincidentally, she's just put together a Professional Development class through online learning for the district.  There was a message about it in my staff e-mail this week as I did my weekly purge.

All of those coincidentallies were just too coincidental.  This would be perfect!  Self-paced, pre-recorded, could do it right from home, blah, blah, blah.  I did wonder if I, just a crossing guard, could enroll.  But all of the above seemed the district wouldn't care one way or the other, right?

WRONG!  I logged into the professional development site, punched in the course number, and was handily rejected.  I can, however, take CPR and First Aid.  Again.

I'm not upset, maybe just a little bummed because I know the course would be useful to me.  I did feel that it might be taking wrongful advantage of my district employee status.  And there is a book to accompany the course, which my friend says she can get me on the cheap, so it's all good.

Meanwhile, I'm learning from my dyslexic student.  We were reading a passage about the history of certain music genres.  It mentioned polkas, and he said he thought that was inappropriate.

"Okay, why do you think it's inappropriate for the author to mention polkas?", I asked

"OH!  I thought it said 'Polacks'!", he revealed, laughing.

Once again, I'm reminded.  Dad was right.


  1. You are so right Abby, you will learn so much from this kid while helping him to learn, it's too bad that you couldn't take the class that would actually help you learn what you needed to help him along, but this will not stop you I can see.

  2. I have always loved to read, and even still, I am never without a book. I've never thought of me being "lucky", however. So I'm glad you pointed out that I AM lucky. (And so are all of my children.)
    Like you, I have worked with young children who were struggling to read. They never found it as enjoyable, probably because it was such a chore. I hope you're able to find a way to help your guy. I have a feeling you both will benefit. :)

  3. I think of some of the stories on the news where children in other countries are not allowed to attend school, especially girls. We forget sometimes just how luck we are. Good luck teaching this young man, I'm sure it's not a coincidence that you found each other. I've always struggled with reading and spelling, so it's interesting that I now work in a library, and always put myself out there doing a blog and writing kids poems and such. Thanks for another good read!

  4. The word -- "dyslexia" -- is itself a jumble of sounds and letters, which I always found ironic. You'd think they'd pick an easier word to read....

    Lots of very successful dyslexics out there, particularly among artists, athletes, and a few entrepreneurs. Bruce Jenner, Tom Cruise, Tim Tebow, Richard Branson, Henry Winkler....looong list.

  5. "All of those coincidentallies were just too coincidental."

    Uh, yeah. That sounds like a "meant to be scenario" to me.

    And quite frankly, I think it's a damn shame you can't enroll.

  6. I remember learning to read. I hadn't started school yet, so I was maybe 4 or 5. My sister was in first grade and had her reading book home from school. She showed me how to say some of the words, and my brain picked up on the process of sounding out the words and took off running. When I started school, I was always sent to the next grade up to take my reading classes. I've loved to read ever since and have always felt sorry for those who don't find pleasure in it.

    Seems unfair that you couldn't take the course on Dyslexia. I'm glad your friend can at least provide you with the book!