As a Teacher and a Mother

This long post is worth reading — especially with school starting in just one month.

Dear Susan,

My husband and three children have dyslexia.

I also teach at the local public school. Recently, during a lunch break in the staff lounge, a high school teacher shared that when she has to teach reading to her students, she has them read “baby books.” When the students ask why, she tells them, “Because you did not learn to read when you were supposed to.”

At that point I left the room, and cried. I was so hurt by what she said. At the time I could not talk about it without crying. (I still can’t). So I wrote this letter. Please share it in your book.

Dear Colleague,

What an inspiring discussion the teachers were having at lunch today. I enjoyed hearing about, and sharing, how hard our students have been working. I am not sure if you noticed, but there came a point when I stopped talking. Probably not, since there was so much going on in the staff lounge. I would like to share with you the reason that I shut down.

You began talking about one of your students. You shared your frustration that she is not reading at grade level. You said her atrocious writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting is so sloppy that you can barely make out the words that she somehow managed to spell correctly. On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems you assign, despite the fact that you just spent an hour teaching that lesson to the class.

You wondered why her parents did not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night. You mentioned how lazy she is, how she could care less about the quality of her work, and how she puts forth zero effort towards improving.

You claimed you had tried everything and you do not know what to do with her anymore, so you will probably just end up passing her to the next grade level like all the other teachers have done.

Believe me, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. If they would just try harder, they would improve. Right?

I would like to introduce you to my daughter. She is excited to be entering high school this year. She is beautiful, polite, responsible, funny, caring . . . I could go on and on.

She participates in 4-H and showed her pig this year at the fair. She made over seven hundred dollars. She put some of the money into her savings account. Some will be used to purchase her next pig, and she can’t wait to go shopping and buy her own school clothes and school supplies with the remaining money.

She also participates in gymnastics, which she started when she was 18 months old.

When children are around her, they gravitate towards her. She loves to take care of babies and toddlers.

She enjoys preparing delicious food for others. Perhaps you would like to come to our home one evening. She will prepare her Pizza Chicken for dinner and Gelato for desert. She really is a great teenager.

Yet my daughter is scared and anxious about starting high school this year. She has dyslexia, and as a result, she is not reading at grade level. Her creative writing is filled with spelling errors of simple words, like they and does, which she spells t-h-a-y and d-o-s-e. There are no capitals at the beginning of her sentences, and rarely is there any punctuation. Her handwriting on school work is so sloppy because she does not want her teachers and classmates to see that she has trouble spelling.

On top of that, she does not know her basic math facts and can’t get through a majority of the problems assigned to her, even though her teacher just spent an hour teaching the lesson.

You wonder why her parents do not care enough to work with her nightly. Surely her spelling and math would improve if they would just make her practice every night.

I love my daughter more than you can imagine. But I no longer force her to practice math flashcards or to write the weekly spelling words over and over every night. I know it will not help her. She will be able to memorize them temporarily, but believe me, she will not remember them the next day.

I know that she puts her brain to the test every day by concentrating so much that it often makes her feel sick. I know that she has put herself down all day long while in school and that she needs to build herself back up at night, so she can go through the same ordeal the next day.

Those are the reasons I no longer fight the “homework wars” every night. Instead, I enjoy the evening with my daughter as she cares for her pigs and rabbits, and as she does front handsprings across the yard.

Children do not want to, or choose to, have dyslexia. They want to learn. They are very frustrated that they can not learn to read like their classmates, that their spelling never seems to turn out right, that they can not memorize their math facts, and that they get lost in multiple step math problems. They can not try any harder than they already do because their brain will not let them.

As a teacher, I understand your frustrations. It is difficult working with students like this. I regret having made some of the same comments as you in the past. I never imagined that I would be the mother of a child with a learning disability. After all, I am a teacher.

As a mother, I am begging you to hang in there and not give up on your students, because if you do, you will be giving up on my daughter. They need you.

So please, let me be the mother who loves my daughter and encourages her to discover all she is capable of, and you be the teacher that encourages her and allows her to show what she is capable of.

Sincerely,

A Mother who is also a School Teacher

 

10 responses

  1. Thank you for posting this. As a parent of children with learning differences I could write this letter too. One of my children has dyslexia along with auditory processing disorder. We have given his teachers information on how to work with his differences and held meetings. They found it too difficult to change how they do things and had expectations that were unrealistic (ex. if you would just teach him how to keep his room in order then he would be able to organize everything else; it would all fall into place). Teachers need to be taught how to recognize and work with students with learning differences. They do not know how. We’re not sure a conventional classroom is the right place for him anymore.

    1. We will be homeschooling our daughter who is in the 6th grade this upcoming Fall. I spoke with the teacher, the principal, the superintendent; and they are not willing to offer the accomodations I requested. ie: no spelling tests, no Language workbook. I (a certified teacher) offered to do the language arts programming in a method that would suit her, and have her attend p.e., art, social studies, science. They said no. So we are opting to homeschool this year.

  2. I applaud your letter and i feel your pain in it. I am so sorry. But I must humble comment and ask that you please speak to your staff members. If you don’t – who will?! Who will stand up for the children – who will speak up for the parents – who will educate these teachers if people say nothing? STAND UP FOR YOURSELF AND FOR YOUR CHILDREN! They are not victims – do not act like they are. They are people who deserve the same respect as every other person in that building does – please STAND UP. I too work in a school and my two sons have dyslexia – every time I hear a comment by a child, a teacher, a principal, a coach I try to educate them. They are all surprised and shocked. And most didn’t mean any harm – they just don’t know what they are saying and doing. They don’t really understand learning disabilities nor how to deal with them. Please speak up and show your daughter how to stand tall – it isn’t a secret – its a learning disability and its about time people started treating it as such.

  3. Reblogged this on Dyslexic Kids and commented:
    This is a letter from the parent of a dyslexic to a teacher. What would your letter to this teacher include?

  4. Hello, and thankyou so much, im also a mother of a 13 year old Dyslexic wonderful girl, and fight on a weekly basis for her freedom to be herself and learn her way , all your coments, ring true to our daughter and the hurt, and anxiety, and constant stress and feeling sick when she has just done enough learning or trying to learn a way she clearly canot, my baby girl is the most unreal girl she cooks like a chef, she paints awsome she is the kindest girl, she is smart and thoughtful, she stands up for what she thinks is right , but end of the day being strong can get exhausting…so at times she breaks down, with anxiety, she hates school she finds it hard to fit in,,,but i always say to her you cant fit in when your ment to stand out and she does stand out she thinks outside the box.
    thanks so much its nice to see that we are not on our own ,

  5. I am right there with you – the teacher of a child with dyslexia. My 11 year old daughter will be homeschooling this year because of the very things you write. She cannot do any homework at night after the battle all day. She is now scribbling instead of even bothering to try and write. My heart is broken, as is her spirit. It isn’t fair that she misses out on the opportunity that school has to offer because her learning style is different. She has started taking kung fu and has to fill out a journal. I offered to write it for her or let her type it. She wanted to write it out so that it would be special. After an hour and a half, and 30 words, and one temper tantrum later, the words are almost readable. Almost. I guess because we no longer do the school work at home I didn’t even realize how bad it was for her. It’s bad. And we are broken.

  6. Thank you.

    From a teacher and a mother

  7. I forgot to mention: if you insert “horse” instead of “pig”; “kung fu” in place of gymnastics; insert sewing and woodworking along with cooking; and change “high school” to “middle school, I could pretty much write this letter.
    Another teacher who is a mother

  8. Remarkable things here. I am very glad to see your article.
    Thaank you so much and I’m having a look forward to contact you.
    Will yyou kindly drop mee a e-mail?

    1. My email is: Susan@BrightSolutions.US

      Susan Barton

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