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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Dyslexia

I was born dyslexic and I will always be dyslexic.  By the end of first grade, I was well aware of the fact that I was unable to read as well as my peers.  I didn't know why this was the case, but as a result, I developed feelings of inferiority that have haunted me for years.  

My life in school started out as mediocre and remained as such throughout my K-12 years and beyond.  I'll never forget meeting with my high school counselor and being told that I shouldn't bother taking the SAT because (as he put it), “it would be best if I would focus my attention on learning a trade that doesn't require college.”  Fortunately, my mother was there to build me back up saying, "everything will be OK, some people just need a little more time to realize their potential."  She helped me believe that someday I would make it to college.

School was a chore, but on the bright side, I excelled in sports.  They were my outlet and without them I truly would have been lost.  Because of sports, I always worked (and sometimes cheated) hard enough to maintain the "C" grade point average required for eligibility.

My biggest obstacle as a high school student was my attitude and lack of motivation.  I was angry and rebellious, always finding ways to rationalize my mediocre school performance on poor teaching.   I spent so much time in the Dean of Students office that in hindsight, I'm surprised I wasn't charged rent!  Over time, he became a mentor and friend. 

By 12th grade, I had three very significant advocates, my mother, my grandmother and my Dean.  All three, in their own way provided exactly what I needed at important stages in my life.  Their unconditional acceptance combined with a sincere belief in me are what got me through high school and into a local community college.

I spent my first two years in college on academic probation.  Not because the work was too hard, but because the work simply wasn't a priority.  By the end of my sophomore year, I managed to squeak out a 2.0 grade point average, just enough to transfer to the local state university.

In my junior year, my former high school Dean introduced me to a professor at the college I was attending.  This introduction turned out to be the single most important gift I had ever received.

Dr. Colwell, known as Maurice to his friends, was the most brilliant, charismatic, insightful and funny individual I had ever met.  We became close friends, discussing philosophy, education, mental illness, golf, baseball, movies, books and relationships.  Our friendship turned out to be more of a dialogue, a dialogue that lasted over 20 years (until Maurice passed away).  

While having lunch together during my senior year of college, Maurice brought up graduate school and the next thing I knew, I was enrolled in a master's program. Immediately after completing the program, I was offered a teaching position.  I accepted the position as an adjunct professor and continued teaching in the Department of Social & Philosophical Foundations of Education for over 30 years.  In looking back at my school experience, I'm often amazed that I went from academic probation to master's degree and college teaching in a span of five years.

My reason for sharing all this is because as Head of Assets School, I know there are parents dealing with the same anxieties my parents faced.  I know that we have students here at Assets who will make many of the same mistakes I made along the way, and I know that all of our students are bright, capable individuals deserving of the same level of unconditional support I had as a young person.

I will be "blogging" from time to time with the hope of discussing various issues relating to parenting, education and more, with the hope of striking a chord with others in a way that will allow for optimism, provide assurance and hopefully lend some practical guidance. 

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