Posted by: minnow | February 7, 2008

Dyslexia and Public Schools cont.

Toward the end of our family’s first year in public school , my middle son was also tested. He, too, was labeled Dyslexic. Disorganization, poor penmanship, slow note taking, and difficulty finishing tests were the primary symptoms. I had a great deal of convincing to do before this child believed the services offered him—a scribe, additional time on tests, a tape recorder—were justified and not some how cheating. As a freshman in high school he started out with a “resource” study hall. The resource study hall gave him access to the reading and writing labs, a tutor, and a place to finish tests if he needed additional time. The downside of this class was that it was an actual class with assignments and “lectures”. The attitude of the instructor and course format assumed that the students were ED (emotionally disabled or dysfunctional) as well as LD (learning disabled). Students were talked to as if they were about to drop out of school, commit crimes, or both. Their motives for wanting to go to the different labs or the library were suspected and their requests for academic assistance frequently minimized. In addition, the instructor’s class time was often consumed with discipline issues because socially dysfunctional students were thrown in with learning disabled students. The apparent wisdom being that at least regular classes would not be disrupted by as many discipline problems. My son transferred to a regular study hall after the first quarter. By doing so he was illegally denied access to the other services for which he was qualified (though we did not know it was illegal to deny him access until much later).

Once again the ignorance and prejudice on the part of my son’s teachers raised their ugly heads. One teacher, for example, thought it was perfectly justified to grade an A student’s test on only three out of four of the questions from a quiz because she “ran out of time” and could not get to the last question. Yet this teacher would not take into account that although my son split his time between all four questions he did not have enough time to answer any of the four as completely as he would have had he had more time. She got 100 percent. He got 75 percent. I got angry. But, to no avail. The more I confronted the system the more it felt like I was banging my head against a wall and creating a hostile environment for my son. Teachers fixed the problem by dumbing down my son’s assignments, giving him less work, and basically “cheating” for him instead of finding methods to actually teach him. My son was caught between a rock and a hard place. He wanted to learn but few teachers were equipped or willing to adjust their methodology.

Fixing what’s wrong with public education will at best take time. Those in control must first understand what’s broken. Then they must be willing to do more than throw money at it. If fewer folks in Washington (or State government) were verbal-linguistic thinkers (Yes, I know I’m making an assumption here.) we might get past all the posturing and pontificating and come up with real, creative solutions. As parents we must insist that those we trust to educate our children be willing to learn what our children need and to adjust their attitudes, ideology, and methods accordingly. Perhaps, in order to get to the best answers for the education problems we need to change some of the questions. Instead of asking: “Why can’t Johnny read?” (Sub-text: Shame on Johnny.); we might be further ahead by asking: “What does Johnny do best?” and “How can that help Johnny learn to read?” or even “What are the means by which Johnny can continue to gain knowledge without having to read?” All the technology, opportunity, and access in the world won’t improve education if we ignore the very ones we are trying to educate!

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Responses

  1. It amazes me that these types of teachers are still in the classrooms, molding our children – labeling our children. there needs to be more information made available to teachers and mandatory education regarding these matters. we cannot quietly sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. We must be active and have a voice in order to promote change.


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