Ever had that horrible feeling where you a realise that you've been badly let down by people who you trusted and who you believed were on your side? I had this horrible realisation this week. It came in the most mundane of ways. My son was moving bedroom and we were having a tidy up. I came across an old school exercise book from when I was none years old. Have a look at this.
Have a quick read through this. What do you notice. Would you say that it was pretty clear I was dyslexic? It is crystal clear to me. Notice the big red tick at the bottom of the right hand page. This means that someone, a person in a position of trust, being paid a decent salary, thought this was OK. Someone who should have been helping and advising me, bringing me up to standard and trying to educate me, had thought this piece of work was Ok. And because they thought it was OK, I thought it was OK. I was in my thirties when I realised I was dyslexic. No one had bothered to tell me. No one had said "Listen Roger, you have a problem with your reading and writing and this is because you are dyslexic". So I thought I was just fine. I thought Black was spelt as "Blak" and reflection was spelt "refleck shon"
In short I feel badly let down and actually quite angry. My teachers were remiss and lazy, they clearly couldn't be bothered to do their job. Maybe they thought I was beyond help. Maybe they thought I was just destined to grow up to a life of digging holes in the road, where reading and writing would not be a necessary skill. They didn't tell my parents that I was dyslexic, they told them I was thick and stupid, they told them that I was a dunce and a troublemaker. The truth is that they didn't bother to look for a reason that is so obvious that anyone with or without a professional qualification should see it.
The sad truth is that there are plenty of children up and down the country, aged nine, who will be handing in homework like this and they won't be getting help with their dyslexia. There are even people who refuse to acknowledge that dyslexia is a problem.
I have an old fashioned view of what teachers should do. I believe they should be there to make children better. They should never simply tick sub standard work. If a child needs extra help, they should ensure they get it. They shouldn't assume that the kid is thick and so doesn't warrant care and attention. I am not an educator, I don't know how you get a 9 year old who thinks "orang is a lovly froot" is an acceptable sentence in a homework exercise to do better. What I do know is that it will never improve if it is simply ticked and little Rog gets a pat on the head.
For reasons I don't quite understand, I was able to turn my educational performance around. I got 9 O levels and three A levels. I still have trouble spelling, but by reading things back and using spell checkers etc, I can pretend I am as good at writing as the next guy. I suppose one of the reasons I take such delight in writing this blog and finding I've had over a million page views is because I had years of being told I was useless. Don't get me wrong, I had some good teachers over the years. I had one or two outstanding ones. I would not have an A Level in Physics if it wasn't for the inspirational John Shuttler at FCHS. The sad truth is that he was the exception rather than the norm. I suspect that many of the best teachers take the Kings Shilling and take cushy jobs at private schools teaching well behaved kids. They say that the prisons are full of dyslexics. I read somewhere that over 50% of the prison population have issues reading and writing. If you can't function in society, is it any surprise that you step outside the rules.
I believe that if the issues of dyslexia and other related learning difficulties were properly addressed, our society would be fairer and less violent. In the long run it would save billions. It is clear to me that every child has a right to a proper education. It is also clear to me that for some of the time, I was deprived of. Given that people were paid to do a job, in educating me, I feel like I've been robbed. No one said to my parents "We aren't bothering to teach Roger properly, here have some tax back".
I don't believe anyone should be put in the dustbin. Least of all me. I've been let down but that is history. Surely we all have a responsibilty to make sure no one else is let down in future.