Philip Powel Smith (Mr. Phil) is a remedial education specialist who works with children and adults with learning disabilities and difficulties learning. He has a BS in Special Education and an MA in Special Education.
Dyslexia and me
My dedication to teaching students with learning disabilities comes from my lifetime experience with Dyslexia. It was at the age of thirteen that I was diagnosed with Dyslexia.
During French school in Montreal my primary grade teachers suggested to my parents that there was "un blockage" with my learning as I was having difficulties learning, but no further suggestions as to what could or should be done were made. What I really had was a learning disability and nobody recognised it. Dyslexia continued to block my progress when I switched to English. I knew something was wrong. By the fifth grade it was clear to me that I could not answer questions or do the same work as the other students. The humiliation was overwhelming. No teachers recognised my difficulties were because of a learning disability and not laziness. Even though I continued to do what I thought was right, I continued to fail.
At the age of thirteen I did not pass the entrance exam for grade seven and it was then that a "learning disability" came to the forefront as perhaps the cause for my poor performance in school. With that news, my parents worked endlessly to get answers, a diagnosis, and finally a school to help. I went to a boarding school for Dyslexic boys. Years of confusion, being misunderstood, and failure were not my fault.
It was at this school that my learning began all over again at the age of thirteen. All the years of thinking I knew what I was doing came to a crashing halt. I relearned how to learn. I relearned what I thought I knew. We were taught Latin and Greek because they are the roots to the English language. We were taught all subjects, sports, and the arts using special techniques and skills that I still recall and use to this day. We were also taught meditation and as a means to focus our attention and thoughts. Meditation is still part of my daily life.
With my students, I come across the same barriers that I experienced when growing up with Dyslexia. I help parents and students break down these barriers, improve learning skills, and enjoy learning. Skills and techniques are learned and applied to daily life, I strive to understand each student and their styles of learning and help them know how to use these skills. I celebrate successes of all sizes and know the need to emphasise these while recognising and validating the frustrations of succeeding more slowly than others.
Because of research conducted around the world, much is known about learning disabilities. New methods for helping students learn better have been developed. Bringing these years of research and knowledge into the learning process is vital. Applying this knowledge and my own experiences learning with Dyslexia gives me an advantage helping students with their learning disabilities acquire understanding, knowledge, and ownership of their wisdom. My dedication to learning is in the hopes that I can help a student experience the joys of learning and not experience the difficulties I experienced. It is also my hope that I can provide the same compassionate mentoring to a student, as I was given, so that he/she will believe that it is not an impossible dream to finish school, go to university, and to graduate school level (MA, PhD) as well, in spite of having a learning disability.
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