Dear Teachers I was in two minds as to whether to send this. I am painfully aware that with an email, without the benefit of tone, express...

Jodi's Red Letter

23:59:00 Dyslexia Australia 0 Comments

Dear Teachers

I was in two minds as to whether to send this. I am painfully aware that with an email, without the benefit of tone, expression and interaction, thewrong impressions or conclusions can easily be drawn. Offense can be taken where none is intended. But I chose email because I know you are so busy, so
stretched, especially at the start of the year and with an email you can view it in your time and I can be clear in my thoughts.
Please understand I am in no way implying that you are this teacher. I am merely explaining Mitch's indisputable experience of many, but not all, of his teachers and classrooms. This is his experience, this is my perception.

I also share this in the hope that you are far from that teacher. That you are in fact the caring, passionate teacher who would encourage feedback and insight from a parent and embrace any information that makes your job and your students experience of your class easier. Mitch has experienced these teachers also and it is thanks to them and their feedback that I share this with you. It is thanks to them I have hope that his educational experience this year can be positive.

There are a few things I would like you to know about my son who this year will be in your classroom. Perhaps with his head down, sometimes looking lost or even scared although due to past bullying this is a look he has learnt to hide quite well.

He will walk into most classes with a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach. Not because he is not intelligent, ask him about black holes, or the illusion of time, Einstein or anti-matter for example and if you ask with a glimmer of real interest I assure you he will surprise you with his knowledge, bore you with his theories, share with you some details and then baffle you with a few questions. This feeling won't be because he doesn't wish to learn, in fact he loves to learn, he longs to learn. He walks in with a feeling of dread because he knows there is a high chance, a much better than even chance, that you will ultimately judge him on his ability to read and/or write. He knows this through many years of painful experience.
You won't just mark him, you will judge him. You will judge his intelligence and decide he has little, you will judge his effort and conclude he doesn't apply himself, you will judge his expressions and think he is disinterested and none of these assumptions could be further from the truth.
You will move to your next class, you will go home and you won't give much thought to that quiet young man in your class. You won't think of his struggle. You won't think of his battered self esteem.
He will think of you though. He will beat himself up once more. Your words, "Just read the question" or "Is that all you can do" or "That work isn't good enough" or even as has been said in the past "What on earth is wrong with you" will play over in his head. He will wish he could please you, he will wish you could just understand him and when he realises this isn't going to happen he will just wish you would ignore him.

He will come home and train for rugby or go to his part time job, he will hug his 7 year old sister and listen to her read, encouraging her even though he wishes he could read like her, he will take out the garbage and thankfully he will sit on the lounge with me and we will talk of his struggles and of your lack of understanding. We will talk of the reality that we all have challenges and the many strengths he has, then he will tell me some random facts about life or space that will surprise me once again.

Thankfully he will come home to me and I will build him up again, I will give him the strength he needs to face another day at school, another day of judgement, another day of being misunderstood, because you think you know all about boys like him.

Unfortunately, you know little about boys, young men, like Mitch. The pressure of your job, the expectations of Principals and Administrators, parents and students ensure you don't have the time to get to know or understand a person like Mitch.

For this reason I ask you to listen to me. I know him, I can help you. Don't brush me off as the over protective parent who sees her child through rose coloured glasses. That is far from the truth. I am a Mum who has walked side by side with my son through what should be the best experience of his
life, school, but in fact is just the opposite. It fluctuates from being hard to being hell and anywhere in between, but for him never fun, never positive. In spite of this he turns up. He gets up everyday, feels that awful feeling and still walks into your classroom.

Here is what I want you to know. Mitch wishes he could read, more than you could ever imagine, Mitch tries hard in all he does and his scribbled, misspelt responses hide his immense effort. Mitch is well behaved and never once in his challenging journey has he taken the path of many boys and
misbehaved or given up.

Mitch wants to learn and he wants you to like him.
Mitch will be fine because we will make sure he is but you can heed my advice and help him or you can ignore it and judge him anyway and I will just work harder to build him up.
Whether you decide to get to know Mitch and understand him even just a little or if you decide to just look at his work or marks and judge him on that is really up to you. The one thing I ask of you, in fact I guess I demand it, is that you never ask him to read in front of the class and please know whatever frustration you can feel regarding his learning, and you will, he is more frustrated with himself than you could ever imagine. 

I know you will read this, if you have got this far, and think "I would never treat a student like that" and I sincerely hope that is true. Unfortunately, our experience has proven otherwise and when this happens I also need you to know that I will stand up for him, I will fight for him but I hope by sharing this knowledge that won't be necessary. 

Jodi – A Mum who has had to fight for fairness more than she ever should of.