Looking at the gift of dyslexia through the rear view mirror of my life I now understand how GOD used this challenge to make me a better teacher and coach. I understood the many challenges different students faced. I counseled many students through difficult times. Dyslexia was a gift from GOD.
Would you believe that I had a learning disability and could not read or write, yet I have hours beyond my Masters Degree and taught and coached at the high school level for twenty five years.
My learning disability Dyslexia
I could tell my story and never talk about these struggles. This is a part of my life that I don’t enjoy remembering. The only reason that I am going to write about my learning problem is I hope that it just might help someone down the road. If a child is having problems learning get him or her help. When I was facing the challenges of Dyslexia there was no help available. In 1946 educators had no clue when it came to learning disabilities. You were either smart or stupid, or you were smart or lazy. Some how I overcame some major challenges and was pretty successful without much help.
My first real struggles started when I got into the first grade. Dad really put a bear hug on the budget and bought a desk for me so that I could have a place to study and do my homework.
They bought me the World Encyclopedias, Children’s Classics and a huge dictionary. Both my mom and dad went way beyond their means to provide me and my brother, Jack, with every opportunity to have a better life than they had .
I was told everyday how important a college education was. I was told that in this great country you could be anything that you wanted to be. I was learning about goal setting and did not know it.
Then it really hit the fan. I was really slow at learning to read. Spelling was even harder and you can just forget about arithmetic.
Things really got tough. Not being able to learn was not a option. I could not go out and play until I did my spelling words, and I could not spell. Dad was going to see that I went to college. It was kind of like some the fathers pushing their kids in little league in today’s world.
In those days we had reading groups in school; you know Bluebirds, Redbirds, Yellowbirds and Brownbirds. I was always in the Brownbird group which meant we read like bird crap.
Every youngster wants to do well in school. I was embarrassed at how poor I read in school and it got a lot rougher at home after school.
I hated school and I hated that desk. In school I would try to disappear. I hated it when I was called on. When I tried to read all of the other kids would start laughing and I hated that. It got much worse when I was called to the front of the room; I would just freeze.
By the time I became a second grader I was a total wreak. The other kids were all smiles and doing good in school and I was just falling farther behind. How many people do you know who failed in the second grade?
Not only was I bigger then all of the other kids, I was also dumber. Because of my size I was told by my parents never to fight because I might hurt somebody. I had absolutely no success in school or at home.
THE CHANGE THAT GAVE ME MY FIRST SUCCESS
The kids would pick on me and laugh when I run home crying. Yes you heard that right my parent told me not fight so I ran home crying. We lived across from the school playground and the kids did something really mean and cruel to me and I ran home crying. My Mother ask me what had happened and when I told her she said enough. My Mother told me I was going fight today. I was petrified when she ask me if I want her beat me or would I rather fight the kids. That was a nobrainer and my Mother marched me across the street and announced Jimmy is here to fight. The kids came laughing and running to get there hands on the crybaby. The first on there was the biggest bully Micky Folten and lasted about 15 seconds. The next one was Billy Hinton, and after the the rest of the kids disbursed. WOW the first success in my life was fighting after the handcuffs were removed thanks to my mother.
I learn to hate that desk. I spent so much time at the desk. We lived across the street from the school and I could see the other kids playing after school as I sat at the desk.
After school I would spend hours at that desk. I hated that desk. I could not go out to play until I learned my spelling words. I had to do the arithmetic and do my reading. I just could not do it. The harder I tried the harder it got. My dad was a very patient man but would become very frustrated trying to help me learn. Dad never realized that we were not seeing the same thing. The longer I set at the desk the more my anger would build up and the more I wanted to fight.
I can remember a visiting teacher taking me to a place in Detroit to be tested. This was when I was in the fourth grade. I did the ink spots, strung beads by color and analyzed pictures. They had given me a picture of the wind blowing trees one way and clothes on a line blowing the other way. I heard them talking about me in the other room after this testing was over. They said that I had tested well and was even bright in many ways. I thought give me a break; these tests were really stupid. How dumb did they think I was? It was always back to the desk.
By the time I was in the sixth grade school was getting worse. I was a big dumb kid. Bigger than most. Dumber than all. I had outgrown that desk at home but still had to study at it. I had taken a knife and cut notches in that desk more than once. As you can imagine this infuriated my dad. I hated the desk.
What I have learned is everyone wants to do good. We all have something that we can excel at if we keep looking. I found fighting was my success and I was now always ready to fight.
I would go to my classes where the teachers would take roll and then I was sent to the gym. I am sure that in the fifties they still had no idea of what a learning disability or dyslexic was or how to handle me. You guessed it at night I would go looking for a fight anywhere. I had a couple of buddies that would drive me around while I was looking for a fight. I had the reputation as a tough guy in high school sports that people still talk about. That is nothing next to the reputation I had on the streets, including Detroit.
I was totally unprepared for Michigan State University, or any other college or university for that matter. There was not a better school in the country than Michigan State for me and my learning disability.
I had a great class advisor by the name of Roy Neimeyer. Roy knew there was something wrong. I still could not read or write. What we did not yet realize was I had this wonderful gift of Dyslexia. Early on Roy realized that I had good intelligence and Roy went out of his way to have some of my professors test me orally.
I went on to achieve a Bachelor of Science Degree from Michigan State University as well as a Master of Science Degree from Central Michigan University.
Teaching and coaching
I was blessed to have the opportunity to teach and coach in the Madison School District twenty five years. I was able to help many young folks that had different kinds of challenges simply because I had walked in there shoes.
Looking back I now understand what GODS plan was for me. Yes I walked a rough path but all of of the glory goes to JESUS CHRIST,