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  • timothyhampson 6:07 pm on April 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Being a Dyslexic English Teacher 

    Let’s start with a¬†sad story:

    The Fountain Pen

    At my primary school, there were regular handwriting tests. If you got a high enough score, you got to graduate from writing with a pencil to writing with a fountain pen. I didn’t know why yet, but my handwriting was barely legible, so I watched as one by one all my classmates moved up to a fountain pen. It took another six months of low test scores before I got my pen. Not because my handwriting was good enough, I think, but because they felt sorry for me. Even today I really love fountain pens too much and spend too much money on them.

    My dyslexia today

    The young me would be pretty shocked to find out that I spend lots of my time writing on a board for 60 people to read, teaching spelling and grammar. The idea that I could ever be good enough at those things to teach people was impossible. I was lucky to go to a really good school that gave me a lot of personalised support that taught me how to cope with a lot of things to do with dyslexia, but of course, it still effects me.


    I make spelling mistakes a lot. This is less of a problem now that it’s so easy to look up words with a phone, or online. I get embarrassed if I forget a spelling I need to write on the board. Something that happens all the time is that I’ll see a word and the spelling will look wrong, even though it’s right.

    Strangely my students don’t often seem to mind me making a spelling mistake, sometimes other teachers can make a big fuss about it. I use an app called Grammarly to spell check everything I put out and it has made a big difference to me. I’ve made some pretty public and embarrassing spelling mistakes, so it’s important to use this app.



    I got a compliment on my board writing recently. I don’t think it’s particularly good but with lots of practice, it’s become legible but not pretty. I don’t write as quickly as I’d like to, but it’s passable.


    Lots of people thing dyslexia means you have to be bad at reading. That’s not always true. My reading is generally pretty good. Words don’t move around or look blurry for me, but I do look at a word and sometimes see a completely different word.

    Can you be dyslexic and be a teacher?

    If you’ve read everything above, I hope you’ll say the answer is ‘yes!’ Being dyslexic definitely makes some things more difficult, but there are always ways to cope. My teaching style is a little bit chaotic and I use a lot of humour when I make a mistake. I make a point of asking pupils to check my spellings on the board when I don’t know something. Dyslexia is said to offer a different way of seeing the world, so I hope that in some ways it helps me as a teacher too.

    • Glenys Hanson 9:19 pm on April 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Tim,
      I only realised about a week ago that my terrible handwriting and spelling could be labelled “dyslexia” and I thought I must be the only EFL teacher with the problem. Nice to know I’m not!

      Like you, I use a lot of workarounds:

      – I separate each letter when I write on the board.
      – I pretend my spelling mistakes are a “test” for my students (i don’t really try to fool them – it’s just a joke between us).
      – I get students to do as much of the writing on the board as possible.
      – I learnt to type when I was at university – in 1970 it wasn’t common in Britain for students to hand in typed work, but my marks shot up.
      – I bought an electric typewriter and then a computer as soon as I could – long before internet.
      – Devising techniques to help students with their spelling has helped with my own spelling.

      Thanks, Tim.


    • Marianne Jordan 10:47 am on April 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Respect! Good on you!! ūüôā

      Liked by 1 person

  • timothyhampson 11:16 am on April 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    My New Job: Teaching English in a Chinese University 



    Our campus: Nice to look at; pretty big when you have to walk across it. 


    You may or may not know I’ve started a new job teaching English at Nanjing University of Finance and Economics (NUFE). People are always curious about other people’s teaching jobs so I thought I’d share some things.


    The biggest thing for me is I have lots of freedom over my classes now. In the past, I’ve had a syllabus that I’ve had to follow with specific things that have to be covered each week. Having freedom means I can try out new things in the classroom which is important. I’ve got a business English class, a conversational English class and a debate class. There are different things I want to do with each one and I’ve had the freedom to experiment. I hope I can share some of these experiments in the coming weeks.

    The Pupils

    I have a good mix of students. Some of them are distracted in class but for the most part they are very committed to class. They’re quite shy sometimes especially if they have to talk to people they don’t know, but they’ve already started to open up a little. I hear lots of stories about them going to English Club at 7am which is way more dedicated than I ever was at university.



    ¬†There weren’t enough chairs in this classroom, but everyone coped really well.¬†


    Class Sizes

    My classes are quite big. My last class of the week on a Friday has 68 students. At first this worried me but it doesn’t so much any more. I can’t give as much one on one feedback as I’d like to, but I’ve tried to make up for it by working on reflective skills. After big activities students have some time to discuss what went well and badly and how they can improve. They spend a lot time doing group work and it’s hard to make sure everyone is working on what they’re supposed to be. I asked on Twitter for advice and got told to use a ‘think, pair, share’ or ‘think, pair, produce’. Having students feed back from their groups is a great way to make them responsible for their time. They all want to have an answer when called on in front of the whole class. It also gives a way for students to learn from each other.


    I used to be either teaching or caring for children from 9-4:30 with an hour off here or there. At my new job I teach nine blocks of two 45 minute classes (thirteen and a half hours a week). I have most of my afternoons off and all day on Tuesday. Pretty nice!

    I’ve been using the time to catch up on some reading I’ve wanted to do and see a bit of China. It was very handy before excitELT to have lots of spare time to prepare things. I have to use some of the time for planning, but it’s quite nice as I like trying out new things.

    One last thing about my schedule is I teach the same classes a lot. I do the same business English class five times a week. It’s quite good for me as a teacher to be able to try the same class in a few different ways and learn from what goes well. I do worry a little that my Friday classes get a better experience than my Monday classes though.



    Spring at NUFE


    All in all I’m really enjoying teaching in China. If there is anything you’re curious about that I didn’t answer, feel free to leave a comment.

    • Kate 12:16 pm on April 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Sounds great, wish teachers in the uk could have the same freedom, fewer working hours, more creativity in lessons, reflective practise and happy outlook. Are you paid subject to results? What a wonderful experience, and the country looks so beautiful!


    • ketaninkorea 1:53 pm on April 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      How is the pay and benefits? I sometimes hear horror stories of companies screwing teachers over, or having “visa problems”.


    • Pete 9:26 pm on April 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Tim, I love the fact that you have embraced your future and are helping shape others. You are doing an amazing job mate. Keep it up. Look forward to seeing you again when we are next in Plymouth if it coincides with your trips home.


  • timothyhampson 5:00 pm on April 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    A Letter to a Pupil 

    Reach these kids

    Me this week

    When I used to teach in Korea, I was teaching some big children and some little children. I used to feel very responsible for them. They were too young to make decisions for themselves to I had to help them make good decisions.

    You’re in your first year of university; you’re not a kid anymore and you’re supposed to be responsible for your actions. I can’t pretend to be a great life decision maker and I don’t know you. I don’t know if it’s a good life decision or not to watch TV shows on your phone in class. It could be fine for you. You might not care about English as much as other things, and maybe you shouldn’t.

    After I saw you on your phone I called you out¬†in front of the class. I thought it was okay at the time, but I’ve been wondering about it since. I’m not sure what my job is supposed to be now that I teach at a university.

    The reason I did make an example of you is because I know cultures get created in class. When people see each other doing things, they copy them. I don’t want to have five students watching TV in class next week.¬†I also hope if you take part a little you’ll really enjoy the class and not want distractions next time.

    There’s still a part¬†of me wants to just say ‘fine’. If you don’t work in my class, you can do the test at the end. If you do well without concentrating much, maybe my class was kind of a waste of time for you. If you don’t do well, then it’s your responsibility.

    One of the other teachers told me not to give students the chance to mess about in class. He does lots of drilling and doesn’t give students time to work independently. All of the students in his class are always on task and he says it works well. One of the reasons I personally got into teaching was I really like teaching independence and reflective skills. I know lots of students are really benefiting from¬†¬†independent work.

    I’m sorry if you were embarrassed or mad at me in class. I’m still thinking about how to deal with these situations and I might get it wrong some time.

    Yours sincerely,



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