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Finding Words in Paint: How Artists See Dyslexia

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Six artists who have dyslexia find their words in art.


“I understand things visually, by finding them in paint. I don’t know if my dyslexia causes me to be this way, but I have a feeling it does.” — Rachel Deane, painter.

We know lots of facts about dyslexia: It’s the most common reading disorder. It changes the way millions of people read and process information.

But we know much less about how it feels to people who have it. How it shapes your self-image, your confidence and how people see and react to you.

And so I reached out to some really creative people — artists who have dyslexia — to talk about this.

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Dyslexia: The Learning Disability That Must Not Be Named

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Megan Lordos, a middle school teacher, says she was not allowed to use the word “dyslexia.”

She’s not alone. Parents and teachers across the country have raised concerns about some schools hesitating, or completely refusing, to say the word.

As the most common learning disability in the U.S., dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population. That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to provide special services to help these students — things like reading tutors and books on tape. But those special services can be expensive, and many schools don’t have the resources to provide these accommodations.

That has led some parents and advocates to worry that some schools are making a careful calculation: If they don’t acknowledge the issue — or don’t use the word “dyslexia” — then they are not obligated to provide services.

Last year, when Lordos was teaching English at a public school in Arlington, Va., she recalls a parent-teacher meeting in the conference room. Things started smoothly.

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America’s High School Graduates Look Like Other Countries’ High School Dropouts

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A new study confirms what many Americans already knew deep in their hearts: We’re not good at math.

Not only that, but when it comes to technology skills, we’re dead last compared with other developed countries.

The PIAAC study — the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies — looks at the skills adults need to do everyday tasks, whether it’s at work or in their social lives.

“Clearly, we have some work to do in this country,” says Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the government’s National Center for Education Statistics. The study compared countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Japan and Finland led the group in literacy, math and technology skills, while the United States’ performance was average or well below average in each category.

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Hacking Feedback: Seeking And Receiving Feedback From Students

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One of my favorite education books is The Courage to Teach. In that text, Parker Palmer explores teaching as a daily exercise in vulnerability. As teachers, we expose ourselves, and often the content we love, to an at-times unforgiving world. Difficult students, dud lessons, doubting colleagues, short-sighted initiatives, all exacerbated by the challenges of our lives outside the classroom, can eventually harden a teacher. And that skepticism can make it a lot harder to take the risks necessary to get better.

So finding the courage to continue to care deeply, to continue to seek feedback, can be challenging. But I’ve found, as scary as it may be, that student feedback has been an important catalyst for reflecting on and improving my practice. Hearing directly from students also aligns with my own deepest motivations. More than test scores, or my desire to introduce students to great novels and great questions, I teach so that students feel someone believes in them and they feel empowered to learn, grow, and succeed. Measuring success on that mission requires hearing directly from students.

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Teaching By Doing Something Meaningful

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A MiddleWeb Blog

kids_cusp2Last time I sat down to write a post, my mind was racing. Actually, the last few times I sat down to write a post, my mind was racing. Could you tell?

Thankfully, every November, when things calm down a bit, I seem to have a shift in perspective, a moment of pause, and I forget I have been racing around for weeks, trying to “get everything done.”

Those first few weeks I forget some core wisdom, like the importance of taking a step back. I forget the value of slowing down, taking a breath. I am so focused on “doing things” that involve a lot of deadlines and paperwork, that I forget the essence of why I teach, which can’t be measured in statistics driven by SGO’s and SGP’s, no matter how hard the data is analyzed, revised, or tweaked.

Finally, a Deep Breath in November

When my head is in the world of corporate education, my heart isn’t fully in my job. When I am focused on how much there is to “do,” I lose some of my teaching magic…and unfortunately, so does my audience.

abracadabra w rabbit 300There are still many abracadabra moments that take me away from the sideshow of Big Education, like the move I use to emphasize 2-sided worksheets. As I dramatically swing my sample copy front-to-back, eliciting mock-gasps and signs of feigned but supportive amazement, we join in laughter and camaraderie, part of an unwritten curriculum.

Thoughts of impending deadlines and the inputting of online grades for a report card that doesn’t really align with my idea of authentic assessment slip into my head, uninvited at times (or prompted by the latest email). But each morning, when I greet my little people at our classroom door, those thoughts disappear into thin air somehow. That’s my kinda’ magic.

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