Toby Lee shares how he was able to relate to his students and become a better person because of his Dyslexia.
I spent many years struggling through academia, never figuring out why I was so different. Most of my friends grasped the nettle, I didn’t. I always had a passion for teaching and I always tried so hard to match my peers in school, but I struggled. So how did I find out I was both dyslexic and dyspraxic?
I trained to be a mechanic on the advice of my father; even my family thought I was slow or stupid. Can you imagine how life was and is for others like me? We spent our days in school being verbally abused and, in my case, we were caned most days.
I arrived at college on my first day to start studying mechanics and as I sat down, the teacher walked in wearing his white gown and a thought came to my mind; I should be him!
From that very day I began my plan to become a teacher. I went to an evening class to get my Teaching Certificate and took a part time job at a local college. The motor vehicle department did not want to be saddled with me, the newbie, as I was far too much hassle for them. They pointed me in the direction of a teacher called Mike, who was forming a bridge program to get students with special educational needs into mainstream courses. He asked me if I wanted to join the program as a teacher and I said yes, he asked me again, just to be certain, and I said yes! At that point I had no idea I was dyslexic and dyspraxic.
I wrote a program and took charge of a group of students, both male and female, with a range of learning needs, and suddenly the curtains opened and I started to see myself as part of the group, It was like looking in a mirror, and I had an epiphany.
I was now in a position to right the wrongs and give something back. I struggled and worked hard to get my teaching certificate. Many others on that course were very academic and one guy continually took pieces out of me. He was an accountant and didn’t like my practical demonstrations, I guess being academic he didn’t understand a creative mind.
Spelling still haunted me in the early days of teaching, and I often had students correcting my work. Without realising it, I had created a non-judgemental bridge between us, and they trusted me. I created an environment of openness where no student felt isolated and no one was made to look a fool, and they all engaged with me. I will admit, I learnt so much about myself whilst working with them; ways of getting the information across that stuck with them and how to make lessons become both structured and fun. I loved that phase of my life, as I had become a facilitator and I felt so proud of all my students. They were now being taken seriously and achieving beyond many people’s dreams. I also became a much nicer person.
I was told during my school years that I would never string two words together and now I am realising how wrong they were. I still teach in my retirement and now I am a writer. It is never too late to learn anything and make improvements as I have done, and my journey is far from over. We must harness and live our dreams, for dreams can be made into reality.