Tag Archives: college

Retention does not work

Some states have a policy of mandatory retention for students who cannot pass the reading portion of the state standards test. But retention alone does not work – and never has, as this parent shared.

I am 34 years old, and I have struggled all my life with reading and spelling. As a result, I have this record playing over and over in my head that says I’m not smart.

My mother has a photo of me going into first grade. I did not want to go. My head is down, my arms are at my side, and my book bag is dragging along the ground. This was my theme during my entire school career. I hated school from the very beginning. I only wish someone had noticed all of the signs of my dyslexia.

Retention - Shame - little kid

Fast forward to 8th grade. I knew I was struggling – and struggling bad. I don’t recall going to classes most of 8th grade. I don’t know why I passed that grade since I didn’t attend much.

I skipped even more school during 9th grade because I was still struggling and felt stupid. I finally dropped out.

Many years later, I got my GED. I then attended a local community college. I have many credits, but not enough to get my AA. That’s because I have taken “Basic English Composition” 3 times – and dropped out 3 times. It is just too difficult for me.

At 18, I become a mother to a wonderful and incredibly smart boy named Jerry. I did not know the preschool warning signs of dyslexia.

But his kindergarten teacher informed me of his difficulty with letter recognition. Later, in first and second grade, I heard about more of his problems. He was eventually tested by the school, and he got an IEP for an Auditory Processing problem. The tests also showed he had a high IQ.

They advised that I read aloud to Jerry every day so he could hear good reading, which they claimed would teach him fluency. Despite doing that, Jerry “hit the brick wall” in 3rd grade. He was retained because he could not pass the end-of-year state standards test.

When I dropped him off at school during his second time through third grade, it was so hard for me to watch him pass all the other kids in the hallway and go back to the same wing he was in last year. I can only imagine how hard it was on him. It was a horrible year.

Fast forward. My son is now 15 years old and going into the 9th grade. Jerry continues to struggle with reading and spelling – despite getting special ed services for 6 years. He can’t even say the months of the year in order.

I watched your video on dyslexia last night and cried almost the entire way through it. You were talking about me and Jerry. I’m one of “those” kids. So is my dad, my aunt, my sister and my nephew. The inheritance pattern is so clear.

I feel very angry at the school system. I did EVERYTHING they told me to do – but none of it worked. Jerry has adapted and can get by – but even though he is smart, he feels so stupid at times – a feeling I know down to my core. It happens every time he is called on to read aloud in class, or when he can’t spell even simple words.

I am so afraid he is going to drop out – like I did.

What it took to get through college

I love it when teachers attend my free presentations on dyslexia – because they share amazing stories of how hard they worked to make it through college:

A new teacher shared:

I saw you speak about a month ago. Let me first say that you were wonderful! I am a new teacher, 24 years old, and I went with some coworkers. We left thinking that every educator should be required to attend one of your seminars.

I now think I might have dyslexia. I always felt that I was slower to understand things in school because I couldn’t read as well as the other students. I remember my teacher putting me in a remedial reading class. I got out of it by faking that I needed glasses and that was the reason why I couldn’t read. After that, I got really good at faking reading.

I graduated from college after struggling many nights trying to read the textbooks and just giving up. I am sad to admit this, but I am a college graduate who has never read an entire chapter of any textbook. It’s not that I didn’t want to read the books. It’s just that I would start reading, but I would get lost. I kept having to reread the same page over and over again, reading was exhausting, and I could not understand what I was reading because I read so slowly and inaccurately. Yet when someone explained it to me verbally, I would instantly understand it.

Even though I never read a full chapter of any textbook in college, I did end up graduating with an overall 3.1 GPA.

A teacher at a private Christian school shared:

Your talk was amazing. I have a degree in Theology, but I stopped buying textbooks after the first semester because I never read more than the first few pages of them.

Instead, I formed study groups where we would TALK about the subject and share the information that “each person” learned from reading the textbook.

I also loved the literature courses. I could not read all of the words in the books, but I could guess at enough of them to follow the storyline. I also discovered that many of “the classics” could be downloaded as text files, so I could use Dragon Naturally Speaking to read them out loud to me.

A teacher pursuing her Master’s degree shared:

I am 56 years old and have dyslexia. I see myself in so many of your descriptions: the disorganized desk with piles of paper, the messy room, the right versus left problems, and spelling. Lord, I can’t spell anything.

Technology tools, especially spell and grammar checkers, have been a saving grace for me. I use them constantly. My wonderful husband has also read and corrected the spelling, punctuation, and grammar in my papers, my emails, and my class work for the last 30 years.

I am now going for a Master’s degree. It is sooooo frustrating that I can make A’s on all of my discussions and demonstration classes, but I can barely get a C on multiple choice tests. I run out of time on every test because when I read the questions, I skip words or misread them. So I have to check and recheck to be sure I’ve read each long convoluted question, and each possible answer, correctly. I can then choose the correct answer, but it takes me longer. Time always runs out before I finish the test.

From a caring teacher and friend:

When you mentioned that dyslexics have poor written expression – even though they have a clear grasp of the concept when discussing it orally, I thought of a young lady I met in college. We started out studying together, but eventually, I became her scribe. When we discussed a topic, she clearly knew what she was talking about. But when she came back with a paper she had written on that same topic, it made very little sense. She would ask me to look over and edit her papers, but this was such a struggle for both of us (her during the original writing, and me during the proofreading) that it simply became easier to write together sitting in front of the computer. She would talk, and I would type.

She shared that she had a reading and writing learning disability and had gotten an IEP in third grade. She also shared that she had been told by several teachers that she was unlikely to graduate from high school and probably would never be able to attend college.

But she had an amazing work ethic. She worked her butt off. And she earned a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

Her story stuck with me, and I’ve been so angry at those teachers who dared to make such a negative prediction to this obviously bright young woman. I can’t help but wonder how different her educational experience would have been if only her teachers had known about dyslexia.

Amazing what putting a name to a condition can do

People have told me over and over again that the day they discovered they had dyslexia was the best day in their life — as this woman shares: 

Thank you for your on-line video. I watched it because I suspect my 5 year old has dyslexia.  Now I’m convinced. But just as important, I found out that I have mild dyslexia.

I cried when I watched your video because you were talking about my life. I related with everything you said. I was actually a B high school student only because my A+ in Art brought up the rest of my grades.

I was on the 7 year plan in college and avoided classes that required written reports. I still can’t believe you knew that. I had to take an upper-level developmental biology class that had all essay exams. The professor would give me partial credit because he knew I could sit and talk about the material, but I could not seem to get it down in written words.

M mother still teases me that I was in my 20’s before I knew my left from right. I knew the days of the week, but struggled with the months.

I still remember her trying to teach me to spell, telling me to look it up in the dictionary, but me not having a clue as to the first, second, or third letter.

My writing was in run-on sentences (still is, sorry). I knew the teacher wanted periods, then a capital, so I would go back over my work and if a sentence looked too long, I would take out a word and put in a period.

Because of your video, when I make word substitutions when reading to my girls, I will no longer cringe when I realize my mistake.

My dirty little secret in life is, of course, that I can’t spell. My husband can’t either. We have worried about the day our kids will find out our “secret.” Well, it is not going to be a dirty little secret any more.

I am not embarrassed to send you this awfully written note. I am not going to rewrite it 3 times, then wait 24 hours, and read it again before I send it — as I usually do. I can stop beating myself up thinking I’m stupid. I’m just mildly dyslexic. Too bad I had to be 42 before I figured that out.

Even though you don’t know me, I am so relieved that there is someone in the world who understands me, and I don’t have to feel crazy or retarded because I can’t spell, write, or read out loud.

I have to look at my whole life differently now. I have lots of new questions, like: is dyslexia why, after 30 years of keyboard use, I still have to look at the keys?

Thank you for giving me the answer to my question of what’s wrong with me. My head’s a little higher today. I think you healed 40 years of emotional scars in the few minutes it took to describe an adult with mild dyslexia. Amazing what putting a name to a condition can do.

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