As I’ve blogged about before, when I was in Grade 2, I was identified with a non-verbal learning disability in visual spatial skills. With support from my parents, my teachers, and my friends, I’ve learned many strategies to cope with being learning disabled, and I even went through university on an academic scholarship. I really do believe that anyone can learn!
Being learning disabled has helped me a lot as a teacher.
- I know that there’s not just one right way to learn. I’m a very big supporter of differentiated instruction in the classroom, and I always try to provide multiple ways for students to share their thinking and demonstrate their learning. This helps lead to success for all.
- I know that as teachers, we need to capitalize on student strengths. To this day, I still cannot read a map (as demonstrated by my at least-once-a-year email to my principal asking where exactly my new classroom is located in the school :)), but I do have strong reading and verbal skills, so I can follow directions. I use this strength to overcome by weakness, and I encourage my students to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses too.
- I encourage students to advocate for themselves. I teach them how to ask for what they need, and to ensure that they get the support they need to be successful. Even with amazing parents and excellent teachers, there will come a time when students have to be the ones vocalizing their needs. The earlier that they’re comfortable with this, the better.
- I admit when I don’t know how to do something. I ask for help from colleagues and friends, and I get students to teach me as well. Showing students that even as teachers, we sometimes struggle, helps encourage them to admit when they struggle. Then we can work on solutions together.
But yesterday I realized that being learning disabled can also make things difficult for me as a teacher. Non-verbal learning disabilities are very different than verbal ones. I don’t usually cite Wikipedia very often, but in this case, I think that it gives a good overview of non-verbal learning disabilities.
Most people that know me, don’t think that I’m learning disabled (at least not until they’ve seen me park a car — then they understand my visual spatial difficulties :)). Since I have very strong reading, writing, and oral communication skills, my areas of difficulty tend to be “invisible” in most cases. As mentioned in the Wikipedia article, I definitely am a person that fears failure. Ever since I started working towards becoming a teacher, and then entering the teaching profession, I’ve been determined to be successful. This is the reason that I reflect so much! It’s the reason that I’m always willing to make changes to what I do, and it’s the reason that I devote so much of myself to teaching. This is also the reason that I become emotional when problems arise. It’s the reason that no matter how much I’m totally, 100% devoted to always being positive, I struggle if or when I feel like a “bad teacher.”
So now I’m asking all of you to help teach me something new. How do you overcome these fears of failure when they arise? How do you block out the negative to only see the positive? As a learning disabled student and a learning disabled adult, I’ve learned many ways to overcome many areas of need. Please help me with this one!