Rose Johnson, a special education teacher at Jordan Middle School, wrote:
Growing up in the 70s as a “turtle” amongst robins, blue jays and eagles literally had me crawling inside my shell.
I spent many days at recess sitting at my unorganized desk completing homework I had either done incorrectly or had not completed because I did not understand.
I knew my teachers appreciated my wit and personality and had high expectations due to the progress made by one of my eight older siblings, but I also knew it was frustrating for them to not see me progress at the level of the other students, especially when my Iowa Basic Test Scores were reported back.
Then, one day I was sent to the coat closet with two male classmates. We were the “turtle” group. I am unsure to this day if the boys selected our reading group name or if that was a school name for our group, but, for several years, Mrs. Jansen, a Title One teacher, used a variety of new ways to develop my basic reading skills and always with a smile. She painted my shell in a way others could not because I learned in a different way.
As my reading skills developed I found other strengths. I had an appreciation for my uncanny ability to write backwards since that is what often occurred as my eyes traveled across the page. I found other kids were impressed with this talent and wanted me to teach them.
I read all the fairytale books at the public library in sixth grade and was able to read “in my head” with some great character voices. Later I turned those character voices into singing and acting in school plays, Speech, and choir contests.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that my mother shared her family’s educational story. My grandfather was illiterate, so my grandmother would read him the newspaper everyday. His inability to read made life a struggle emotionally as well as financially.
My mother spoke of her love of learning, but she had to drop out after eighth grade because she became ill with pneumonia and had to go work at the hospital to pay for her medical bills. It was important to both her and my father that each of their children graduated high school.
Now, as a teacher of students who learn in different ways I share my struggles with my students and show them how I can write backwards. I let them know that one day, which I hope is soon, they will also learn how they learn best and what strengths they have.
While I want to see the academic progress, it is equally as important to me to see them love themselves for the way they are and the gifts they have to share with the world.
I have dyslexia. It is a gift. While it didn’t always feel that was the case, I wouldn’t have it any other way.