5 things which make the biggest of differences according to the voice of dyslexic children!
I leave my job as intervention teacher this week! I’m really sad because I have to leave some very special children who I feel I have made a big difference to, but more importantly I’ll miss them because they have made a big difference to me! They have reminded me why I love teaching, why I went into the professional and what it feels like to learn together! I went into teaching because I love the way children can constantly challenge and change your own thinking! If you let them they can enrich your life at the same time as you enrich theirs!
They are anxious about the new teacher taking over! (I think she will be amazing, but understandably they are nervous!) I spent this morning telling them it would be fine! They still were not convinced she would understand them like I do… So I asked them to tell me what we have done together which they have found useful and what they think has helped them most in our time together and this is the list of things they came up with!
1. According to the kids I Smile at them… They want a teacher that smiles at them!
I do smile at them, I smile lots (even when I don’t feel like it, and especially when my patience is running low!) I think a smile is important because it lets them know you like them… We spent lots of time investing in building relationships. Until I had a relationship with them I wasn’t going to move them anywhere! They had to trust me, they had to know that I wouldn’t make them feel stupid and I needed to learn their limits! Only then could I start to move their learning forward and gently push them from their comfort zone! We have also laughed lots and lots! The lessons have been fun… Super fast paced but every lesson has been balanced with practical and written and auditory work. It’s helped sustain their focus and enabled them to learn without them even realising it!
2. I give them work they can FINISH!
This is their biggest gripe in class! They feel like they can never get anything finished. They told me it makes them feel rubbish when they see everyone else finishing work and they can’t keep up!
This has to affect your self esteem but also your motivation to even begin stuff. If you know you won’t finish it why start! We structure each hour lesson so that we probably do between 7 and 10 activities. I went on a course once and was told that for every negative thing that happens it takes 3 positive to out weight it! I guess this is what I plan to do in my lessons. Provide loads of opportunities for success. This way I can push them in a couple of the learning tasks… It’s doesn’t matter if they are not successful in one or 2 because I will sandwich them between tasks that I know they will be successful at!
I guess finishing also makes us feel good about ourselves!
3. I apparently start from what they know and I believe they can do it and that helps them think it is possible!
This is true! I do believe in them, I believe that each and everyone of them is capable of reading and writing fluently. We just need to find the way that works for them. We also need to find where each one needs to start. This was the biggest and most important thing I learnt when training to be a specialist teacher! It’s so important that we start learning in the right place! If we start from where they know then we can build on it, attach new learning to old learning! I Build on success! I spend a lot of time planning and thinking about how to move learning forward but in a way that feels safe to the children and in a way which I know will stretch their thinking but not so much they no longer feel unsafe!
4. I mostly let them have fun… There is not much hard work…
Mmmmmmm this is debatable as there has been very important hard work happening! In 10 weeks we have learnt the 26 names and sounds so that they are completely secure, learnt to sequence the alphabet in under a minute, know what a suffix is and can find one in text, can find nouns and verbs in sentences and we know what they are, can join our writing. Know there are 5 vowels and what they are, identify the vowels in words. Most importantly they can hear the difference between long and short vowel sounds, in isolation and in words and know what an open and closed syllable is. Can independently count syllables in words and use this as a strategy to help spell multi-syllabic words. Join our handwriting fluently. Identify whether a sentence is statement or a question and use question marks, explanation marks and inverted commas correctly…
Apparently this is not learning or work though… This is fun! I think that the way it has been presented to them has helped as I mentioned before short activities and a variation of practical, cutting, auditory, moving around, listening has helped immensely, building on what they know, checking and marking work themselves and learning from each other! I’m just the facilitator, they do the hard part themselves.
5. ‘They want to work hard for me… Because they don’t want to let me or themselves down!’
I told them that the head teacher would be monitoring what the children were learning… Not because she was worried about their progress but that she needed to be sure I was a good teacher! … I told them this because I wanted to take the pressure off of them and actually to be fair their learning can only be as good as my teaching…
If I am not providing them with the right stuff then they won’t make progress. By right stuff I mean everything, relationship building, resources, diet of activities my patience with them, my understanding of where their current learning is and where it needs to go next. Their progress is really reliant on how I teach them as well as how they apply themselves. I can’t expect anything from them without them expecting something of me. It has to be a partnership! … If I give them the right stuff they will make progress!
I have also promised them that if they listened to me they would improve their literacy skills… and that would enable them to be whatever they wanted to be… But they have to believe they can get better because if they don’t believe it it won’t happen and the only person they are letting down is themselves! I can already read and write and it makes little difference whether you listen to me or not, I’m already where I wanna be (well kind of!) they can get where they wanna be if they work hard and listen! I promised them I wouldn’t give them anything I didn’t think they were capable of!
So there we have it the views of some dyslexic learners… Some dyslexic learners that I will never forget because they reminded me how enjoyable teaching can be. Some dyslexic learners who are bright gifted children who just need to find their place in the world. I believed in them, I smiled at them, I made learning fun, I pushed them hard and taught them to work hard for themselves and not only did that change their life it changed my life too!
Author of ‘don’t forget to smile… a memoir uncovering the hidden difficulties of dyslexia.,’
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