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.

Spelling

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.

Handwriting

IMG_3471.JPG

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.

Reading

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.