My experiences as a dyslexic teacher
When I had already been teaching for about 10 years, I met a pair of grandparents at a friend’s barbecue. They had just received some devastating news; their 9-year-old grandson had been diagnosed with dyslexia. They told me this in hushed voices, as if they were ashamed. Although, their reaction was not unusual (97% of respondents in one survey viewed dyslexia negatively *), I was taken a back. Did this mean I should be ashamed or devastated about my own neurodivergence?
I did my best to reassure the couple that their grandson would be fine. I told them lots of successful people, like Richard Branson and Tom Cruise are dyslexic. Although he might need extra support, their grandson could get GCSEs and A levels if he wanted. They seemed reassured. Then I told them I was a dyslexic teacher. Their reaction astounded me even more than the shamed hush had done previously. They we over the moon at my success! The grandfather toasted my talents, and the grandmother
gave me hug. They both treated me like I had just climbed Mount Everest. I couldn’t fathom why.
Until that point, I had never considered my achievements anything special. Yes, I’m a dyslexic teacher who went on to gain a master’s degree but was that out of the ordinary? I knew no other dyslexic teachers, but they must exist. I’ve always disliked it when people say I’ve ‘overcome’ my dyslexia. I haven’t. I’m still as dyslexic as I was the day I was born ( it’s genetic). I’ve just found ways round it. Most of which involve the use of technology. I used to downplay my attainment in a matter-of-fact fashion. I disliked people who made ‘ a big deal’ of their dyslexia. My dyslexic friend, and I used to joke that we would write a book called ‘So you’re dyslexic? Just live with it!” As if all you had to do was keep calm and carry on.
I have talked before about my experiences at teacher training, where another student commented that he believed dyslexia was a middle class camouflaging of lack of intelligence. That must have stuck because, up until my chance meeting with these grandparents, I had just shrugged off my neurodiversity (ND) and downplayed my success. After meeting my fellow barbeque guests, however, I changed my attitude. No, it hasn’t been easy to forge my career, firstly as a schoolteacher and now as private specialist teacher and trainer. Yes, I do find several aspects of the job harder because of my ND. And yes, I am proud of my achievements. I’m now 23rd years into my career, I’ve met hundreds of colleagues, yet I know very few ND teacher and even fewer dyslexic ones. My next step if try and find us all support and recognition so that we can be good role models to ND children. And perhaps inspire the next generation of ND educators.
Reference Dr Kate Griggs ‘ The Creative Brilliance of Dyslexia’