More on ‘Don’t Call Me Stupid’

I felt I wanted to blog again about dyslexia which was illustrated in the programme ‘Don’t Call Me Stupid’ presented by Kara Tointon http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vy8c7 It was repeated over the Christmas period and, judging by the comments it provoked, it clearly touches so many hearts.

What the comments reveal is the disgraceful fact that the worst thing sufferers have to deal with is the way people are made to feel because of their dyslexia, as if the challenges dyslexia presents were not bad enough. And the fact that perfectly intelligent children and young people are labelled as stupid and incompetent.

Richard Marshall said in one comment ‘My son, who was in last night’s programme, experienced abuse, torment and ridicule at the hands of teachers who could not manage their own emotional literacy – not to mention children confused and frustrated at not being able to understand their lessons.’

There’s sixteen year old Andrew who has had the courage to comment: ‘hi i am 16 i have just found out that i have Dyslexia a mounth a go and all the time at school i was bulled called names and the teachers said i was not paying atanchen in class most of the time i would have spent my play time writing lines and i just now want to find out more about it’

And there are comments on the original post from older dyslexics who have had to cope all the way through their adult life with the feeling that they were not as good as others because of labels attached to them through schooling.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go towards changing people’s attitude to those with dyslexia. Clearly, still a long way to go towards providing the right educational approach.

Whatever a child’s difficulties in school, there is absolutely NO excuse for any teacher making a child feel they are stupid. It is an abhorrent way for any teacher to treat a learner, however unable to learn they may be. And in no way is it of any value to a child’s education to be made to feel thick. It is nothing but destructive. And is probably the reason why so many parents end up home educating.

Of all the things that need changing in schools this is the one that perhaps needs it most; to stop children being made to feel stupid because of the challenges they face with the way they learn. It is absolutely paramount to any learner that their learning is comfortable, they are confident with it, they trust the people in charge of their learning, and that it develops their abilities and increases their self esteem.

And it is absolutely vital that we all make it known in all our different learning situations, whoever we are, that anything less is unacceptable.

Schools have all sorts of problems and face many challenges themselves. They have all sorts of children, from all sorts of backgrounds, who have been parented in all sorts of ways, some of those ways making some children hard to have in a class. That’s no excuse. No one should be made to feel bad through their education whatever background they come from.

The educational system has all sorts of problems. It caters only for a very narrow band of abilities and personalities; i.e. those that can passively accept what is done to them in the name of education and ‘fit’ into the word based, rather than experiential, approach to learning. And it delivers education in a very narrow and limited way that excludes many learners’ individual needs. And that’s what exacerbates dyslexic problems. But that’s not the child’s problem – it’s a problem with the system. And clearly it needs changing.

The more people who shout out about their dyslexia and the challenges it throws them, the more stories that are told about the way people have been made to feel in school because of their difficulties, the more it is talked about – out in the open, rather than concealed in shame; the better informed people will become, the more recognised and understood dyslexia will be. And hopefully less and less children will come out of school feeling they are stupid.

It is the people involved who’ve neglected to cater for these children’s needs that are the stupid ones – not the children. It’s important that parents continue to fight to make that plain!

A big thank you to all those who have taken time to leave a comment. I hope you’ll continue to tell your stories and to raise awareness of the problems for dyslexics and fight for the need for them to be catered for in an appropriate and empathetic way within schools.

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4 thoughts on “More on ‘Don’t Call Me Stupid’

  1. Thank you for writing this blog. You have put into words the opinions and feelings I have had for years but you have put it so much better than I. It is sad to think teachers/Education experts are still so ignorant or unable to bring about change in attitudes. Every teacher or teacher’s relative I have ever known in the last thirty years have told my how dedicated, caring and professional teachers are. If this is indeed the case why are so many children damaged by the education system. Is it the case that most primary children behave reasonably well and gradually become more disruptive or introvert and depressed as they realise they are failing?

    I was recently told by a friend, whose daughter is an ex-teacher, that they are considering sending their granddaughter to private school, because they didn’t want her mixed up with the ‘rubbish’ in the state schools. When I voiced my despair at this attitude I was told I take things too personally. I wish I had had your blog with me, she may have understood me better.

    • Hi Norma,
      many thanks for posting and for the compliments! I think you are right, sadly. Many children start out in school with open hearts and good behaviour but have to adopt other habits in order to survive the unnatural and usually threatening environment that exists in the educational system! And sadly too, the dedicated and hardworking teachers are also at the mercy of the system, badly parented children and untold pressures that make them resort to often unpleasant methods to get the results on which their careers depend!
      Unless we take away some of this pressure on children and teachers it will be hard for it to change. And it will also be necessary to change the attitude of some parents who expect school to do their parenting for them not to mention the attitude of some children who have not been nurtured to value education and the priviledge it is!
      If you take things personally – then so do I, we’re in it together! In fact, education is a personal thing – it couldn’t be any other way could it? Unless of course the state think it is solely for them!! Some of the government policies make you wonder! Best wishes.

  2. I am now just over a month away from my 73rd birthday. I have cut and pasted a paragraf from a book I have recently finished writing about my life, while I was growing up in India. I believe it is what any dyxlesic Girl or Boy of my time, would have experienced in any School.

    Back to school

    Soon Theo and I were back at Sanawar. I don’t’ know why but we always seemed to
    arrive at boarding school after everybody else and leave before them. Theo was now
    ten and I was nine. After settling down to a routine of military regimentation, I began
    to feel a little more relaxed and took up collecting Butterflies. Their beauty fascinated
    me. I made my own net from a remnant of mosquito net, some wire and a length of
    bamboo and spent much of my leisure time trying to catch as many different verities
    as possible. I enjoyed my own company and felt no need for close friendships with
    the other boys. I also became interest in sport and while not being skilled in any
    particular one of them, I seemed to be included in any inter house selections for
    Cricket, Hockey and football, I also visited the gym frequently to pick up tips on
    Boxing from the older boys, though there was on team to represent Outran House, the
    one I was in. We were considered a little too young for competitive contests but on
    rainy days, the older boys would get a bit of amusement by staging bouts of Milling,
    between us willing younger ones. We would be split into two teams and lined up on
    diagonally opposite corners of the ring, a boy from each corner would enter the ring
    and a one minute round would be started by a referee who’s only instruction to the
    combatants was “I don’t want to see any tears”

    It would soon become obvious to any reader of the account of my school days at
    Sanawar, that I have not mentioned anything about the academic notoriety of this
    Particular school. It was indeed renowned for its high standard of academic
    excellence and throughout its history, many of its pupils succeeded in becoming high-
    ranking officers in the armed forces, Captains of industry and leaders in the field of
    Commerce, Industry and the professions. It was also well known, that because of the
    high standard of military training at Sanawar, it was possible for the Army to recruit
    boys who were over eighteen years old to their ranks straight form the school and
    send them into battle on the front line.

    The truth is, that my ability to absorb academic knowledge was severely hampered by
    my constant personal battle with this inexplicable inability to make sense of the
    written word. These indisputable high standards meant nothing to me, but the most
    frustrating thing was, that I had no way of expressing it to anyone, furthermore, to
    even contemplate confiding in anyone, filled me with a sense of shame and
    embarrassment. Looking back, I can see that at that age, I was probably not
    emotionally equipped to rationalise the situation. Surprisingly though, this
    impediment went largely undetected by teachers, or even my parents. Although I
    suspect that my father may have considered me to be educationally subnormal. I
    always felt a sense of rejection, by him.

    My days at Sanawar seemed to be dominated by a desperate need to conceal my
    ignominious situation by striving to be the equal of my pears. Outside classroom
    hours, I tried to develop the popular practical skills that many of them indulged in.
    Sports, such as Boxing, Cricket, Hockey, or other current pastimes requiring physical
    skill and dexterity. But the classroom was a different matter. Inevitably, anxiety and
    fear of the learning process developed. I say fear, because that is what it felt like. In
    the classroom, I would keep a very “low profile,” taking great care not to attract the
    attention of any teachers, fearing that they may single me out to read aloud; or even
    worse, chalk something up on the blackboard. Just the thought of it would bring me
    out in a sweat and uncontrollable palpitations. I somehow managed to avoid such
    situations, until inevitably, one day, my luck ran out.

    On this occasion, the lesson was Latin. The paradox being, that up to now, nobody
    had noticed that I couldn’t even read or write English properly. The teacher was
    Chicky Evans, who incidentally was also my English teacher. While the rest of the
    class were reciting Latin declensions, I was caught gazing out of a window. I become
    aware of an uneasy silence. Turning my head back towards the class, I saw to my
    horror, all eyes were looking in my direction. I felt the blood make a rapid exit from
    my face and I was reminded of the phrase, “involuntary bowel action”. Chicky
    Evans’s voice boomed across the room, “Come here boy!” With great difficulty I
    managed to get to my feet, but when I tried to walk, my legs turned to jelly. I felt so
    weak; I only just managed to make it to the dais on which Chick’s desk was mounted.

    He grabbed me by my upper arm with his left hand and pulled me to his side; I
    momentarily lost my balance, but somehow managed to regain it quickly. “Are you
    with us boy?” He shouted in my ear, ‘yes sir’ I answered in a voice that must have
    sounded like a rusty hinge on an old barn door. “Very well then, perhaps you can
    carry on from where the class left off”. I tried to swallow but my throat had seized up
    and my tongue became glued to my palate. The smirks on the faces of the rest of the
    class didn’t help much either. In a faltering voice I began: “Amo, Amar, Amartis,
    Amant…” At this point coordination between brain and lip broke down and I
    shuddered to a halt, Chickey suddenly let go of my arm, then grabbed my right ear
    between his fore finger and thumb and with his right hand produced a large
    screwdriver from the drawer of his desk. Plunging it into my ribs, he began shouting,
    “Come on! Come on!” I lost control of my emotions and began to cry. An
    uncontrollable stream of warm fluid rushed down my right leg and the class erupted
    with laughter. That completed the humiliation.

    As time went on, the discomfort of having to sit in a classroom for the best part of
    every day, with the ever-present threat of ridicule and humiliation, it began to have a
    negative effect on me, leaving me with no interest in gaining knowledge through the
    written word. I developed a phobia of classrooms; they seemed to exude a sickening
    smell. Blackboard, books and pens, all became implements of torture to me. It
    seemed much easier to tolerate the scorn and ridicule of the teachers. I just pretended
    to appear unconcerned, rather than making any attempt to persevere. There seemed no
    other way forward. A woman teacher once brought one of her baby’s bibs to class
    with her and tied it around my neck, then made me stand outside the Girls school, for
    the whole of the lesson. I pretended not to be bothered by keeping a fixed grin on my
    face. The memory of these humiliating experiences, haunted me well into adulthood.

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