Dyslexia, Hard Work, System 44: A Student’s Memoir
Dear Fellow Community Members,
I didn't fully understand what dyslexia was or how to adequately address it, when I taught a former student, Danny, in his 7th and 8th-grade years. I did my best with implementing best practices of the System 44 program and incorporating a few additional strategies into my lessons that I acquired from resources that I sought out. Danny completed the System 44 program at the beginning of his 8th-grade year and then started the READ 180 program. In 9th grade, the READ 180 classes couldn't fit into Danny's schedule, which always created a sense of wonder on how he was faring in his high school academic classes.
At an unexpected moment this year, a tenth grade English teacher shared a memoir that Danny wrote for a required 10th grade writing assignment. As I read Danny's memoir, happy tears filled my eyes because I had no idea that the instruction provided through the System 44 and READ 180 program had such a significant impact on his life. It had been over two years since I was a part of his learning journey, yet when asked to write a memoir in 10th grade, this adolescent chose to write about how the HMH's intervention programs had altered his life... forever.
So if you think you are not impacting change in your students' lives through your lesson plans and implementation of the programs, then just wait, a reminder will come either tomorrow, at the end of the year, or two years from now. You never know when you may receive a "news bulletin" about a former student that will inspire you to continue the hard work you do with your students.
This is Danny's account of dyslexia, and how the instruction he received using the System 44 and READ 180 in middle school, helped him to achieve success in his high school years.
10th grade Student Memoir by Danny (English 10)
I am dyslexic. This means that how my brain interprets words is different than how they appear on a page. It is almost as though my mind is too fast for me. There are different types of dyslexia that include Phonological, Surface, Rapid Automatic Naming Dyslexia, Left Right Confusion, etc. For me, I sometimes skip over words that are on the page, but my brain has difficulty registering that they are even there. My parents brought me to several doctors to diagnose my condition. It was incredibly frustrating as they told me I was different but could not pinpoint the exact type of dyslexia as many different forms exist.
It made me feel isolated and hesitant to read in class. Whenever a teacher was going to pick a student to read out loud my head would shrivel into my body like a turtle. Although many of my teachers knew I was dyslexic, I was shy and would not participate. During reading tests, I became even more frustrated as I knew the answers to many of the questions but could not interpret them accurately or express myself correctly. I avoided reading out of fear that I would struggle while many of my friends and classmates were excelling at a much higher level. I still wonder to this day that maybe if I was never told of my disability, it would not affect me and I would remain a confident reader. Ultimately, both my teachers, parents and I knew something had to be done.
My parents wanted to help me as much as they could so I could get to where I needed to be. My sister Ally started crying when she found out just how low my reading level was and told me that I needed to try harder. My parents and I tried our best to explain to her that it had nothing to do with my effort but more with my ability. Eventually, she understood and was one of my biggest advocates in middle and high school. She explained to me her own struggles in school realizing that in this world some people just have to work twice as hard as others. At that moment she stopped throwing a pity party for herself and decided to make a change and live the best life she could have. In doing so, she inspired me to work harder and be the best student I could be.
However, not everyone I encountered was as supportive as my family. Some of my peers bullied me and called me “stupid.” They felt that because my processing time was slower, I was stupid when in fact I could understand exactly what I was reading; it just took me a bit more time. Although dyslexia made it difficult to read, it allowed me to see who my friends were as clear as day. This was an important life lesson and I realized that even in the darkness there can be a glimmer of hope.
In the middle of 5th grade, I was enrolled in the System 44 program and I stuck with the program and moved onto the READ 180 program until the end of 8th grade. Read 180 and System 44 utilizes computer software to help struggling readers like me, decode and interpret words, phrases, and sentences. The software is broken down into different categories that include reading comprehension, decoding, spelling, and word analysis skills. This class along with my parents and tutors, helped me improve my lexile score several hundred points and brought me from a 1st grade to a 9th-grade reading level. Now, my reading is grade level appropriate and I am able to not only keep up with my peers but excel as well.
In addition to the Read 180 and System 44 software programs, comic books played an integral part of my ability to improve my reading and get me more interested in books. It was easier to understand what was happening in the story, as I could follow the storyboard on each page. Not only did comic books pique my interest in reading but the eye-catching illustrations gave new meaning to the text on the page. At times, I felt like I was actually in the story and these characters were speaking to me. Eventually, comic books helped me understand what I was reading and piqued my interest in books. Not only did comic books help improve my love and ability to read, but enabled me to connect to other comic book readers and develop long-lasting friendships. Now, I have become a lifelong reader and aspire to become a comic book writer like Scott Snyder. One of my goals is to educate others and raise awareness about dyslexia through my writing. My love of reading would not have been this strong if I didn’t have the obstacles to overcome which allowed me to appreciate and understand just how this disability can impact people's lives.
From this experience, I learned that hard work pays off and that I should never give up. At times, some troubles are gifts and the obstacles we face help shape us into stronger people. This experience changed me because it forced me to work harder and allowed me to reevaluate how I would approach difficulties and obstacles. Just because one person sees things differently, one cannot assume that they are wrong or stupid. It is our unique ability to see the world with different eyes that makes it interesting and allows us to share new experiences with one another. I truly want to become the absolute best version of myself both inside and out of the classroom. Moving forward, I will not only continue to improve my reading and writing but educate others about dyslexia through my writing. Dyslexia has changed my life in too many ways to count. At times all I wanted to do was hide in my room and crawl in a ball were nothing would bad happen to me. At other times I wanted to jump to the sky in excitement over my reading and accomplishments. Now I think of dyslexia just as a past challenge in my life. Dyslexia gave me a lot. Dyslexia was a crutch in my life for the longest time but now its fuel for the fire that I use every day to get out of bed. Dyslexia is what I have, but not who I am.
Wow! My heart was full having been given this to read.
I didn't nominate this student for a 180 award when he was in middle school because I was uncertain of the progress he was making both in and outside of my class as it wasn't a clear and transparent "case" of student success. But years later, I now realize that the work I did with Danny was not just important, but was life-changing. He had developed strong self-efficacy.
Keep up the good work with all of your lesson plans and the individual attention you give to your students. The work that you and your students put forth effects not only the present but also the future.
Keep pressing on!!!