Excerpts from DVFS Students’ Personal Learning Journey Essays
The student comments below are excerpted from their personal learning journey essays that are a required component of DVFS English teacher Bill Keeney’s unit on My Dyslexia, a memoir by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz who was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult.
Self-understanding (metacognition) and self-advocacy are critical for student success. In both our upper and middle schools, we place great emphasis on empowering our students for that "next step." Students develop self awareness and self-advocacy skills in age-appropriate ways as they move through DV. Our academic program's emphasis on skills and strategies equips our students with a firm understanding of how they learn best, what they need to do to overcome their specific challenges—and the language and courage to successfully articulate their needs to others.
As students develop an understanding of their strengths and challenges, they also learn what tools and strategies they will need for more successful learning and academic performance. And as they mature in their understanding of how they learn, they are expected to evolve beyond understanding to self-advocacy. The ability to explain their particular learning difference and the challenges that difference may present, as well as the confidence to ask for what they need to be successful, are critical skills in their preparation for college and career.
As 11th grade students, the My Dyslexia project is an opportunity to share their stories - and these skills- with their peers. These students graciously agreed to allow us to share their stories more broadly in hopes that their experiences could help others by providing a sense of community, hope and inspiration to families still finding their way.
My parents recognized my learning difference when I was in seventh grade. I was tested by a neuropsychologist who said that I had a cognitive disorder, a mathematics disorder, and a mixed receptive and expressive language disorder.
In my old school, some teachers would say that I was lazy and did not try hard enough. In reality, I always wanted to learn and be the best in the class. I would stay after school almost every day because I did not understand the math assignments or the lessons. I would ask the teacher to repeat the directions and he would roll his eyes. Whenever a teacher would act that way, it would cause me to never ask for help again.
These experiences caused me to not enjoy learning, made me feel sad, lowered my self-confidence, and caused a lot of stress both at home and at school.
Now I attend Delaware Valley Friends School, a school that is designed to teach to students’ unique learning styles, I feel like I am open to learning and the school’s approach sets me up to be successful. I have the right supports and I am surrounded by teachers who are very patient, understanding and know how to teach students with learning differences.
It makes me feel sad that there are other students with a learning difference who are not getting the help and support they need and deserve. It is important to educate the public about how students learn differently.
AN LD STUDENT'S EDUCATIONAL JOURNEY
Students in Bill's class are invited to use other creative media, besides writing, to convey their message. In this video, by Delaware Valley Friends School senior Olivia W., Olivia describes what it is like to be a student living with a learning difference - dyslexia and ADHD - and what she has learned about herself on this journey. The film won the 2017 Bridge Film Festival category: New Media.
Have you ever heard of the word dyslexia? Dyslexia means a general term for a disorder that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with dyslexia.
Once my parents found out that I had a learning disability, I switched schools. Since then I have attended two schools that specialize in teaching students with learning disabilities and they taught me how to advocate for myself.
I came to Delaware Valley Friends School in ninth grade. Each day I learn more about the brain and how it works. I consider myself blessed because my parents helped me by switching me to a school that helped me with my learning disability.
Do you have a child with a Learning Disability? Everyone is different and might not have dyslexia, ADHD, or a comprehension disorder, but if your child or someone you know is struggling, please help them.
I wonder what time it is? I wonder how my old school is doing? I wonder what’s for lunch today? I wonder what song I should listen to next? I wonder if it’s going to rain soon?
This is what it feels like to have ADD. ADD, also known as, Attention Deficit Disorder, gives people a harder time with learning and paying attention because they are so distracted by the world around them. I was diagnosed with ADD around age six or seven.
With my A.D.D, I really need to learn how to stay on task and focus. I can easily be distracted by the smallest things: a pencil sharpening, someone chewing gum, birds chirping outside.
At DV, I’ve discovered different strategies that help me learn. One is using audiobooks through Learning Ally. Listening to an audiobook with headphones helps me cancel out the noise around me and focus on reading. With Learning Ally, I can also read at the right speed for comprehension, and can adjust the speed faster or slower if I need to.
I have learned enough about myself and the way I learn that I can advocate for myself. I now know the right tools that I need to feel and become successful in school and in the working world.
What I If told you that you just read this sentence wrong. You would probably laugh a little, looking back to see that the word ”I” and “if “are switched. But what if I told you this sentence is wrong too. You probably second guessed yourself and looked back to see if it was. This is just a small hint of the world of a dyslexic. Constantly making mistakes is something that I struggle with as a reader. Dyslexia affects confidence because you ALWAYS feel wrong.
In fourth grade (the year I found out I was dyslexic) we had to read every night and chart our reading. I gave up on trying to read every night and would tell my friends that it was stupid, which heighten my popularity a bit. I felt labeled by all my teachers as a rebellious kid that did not try in school. The kids all admired me for it but I could see that in addition to admiration, they pitied me.
In the seventh grade I transferred to a school for kids with learning differences. At the new school, I thrived. I loved it at Delaware Valley Friends and it took me no time at all to figure out what I loved about it. Although all the kids had different learning differences, they all were aware of what it was like to be different. The community at DV is unmatched because everyone feels like they are equals. Everyone can try their best and make mistakes because they know they are surrounded by people who will support them and boost them up.
I’m strong now and I know that, which is why I am proud to say that I am dyslexic.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is misunderstood in the majority of educational environments. I was diagnosed with APD when I was 6-years-old and ever since then I have learned different ways to compensate.
Students with APD can hear perfectly fine but the information they hear does not always reach the brain and, therefore, they have difficulty processing language. APD is present in about 5% of school-aged children.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin.
This quote from Benjamin Franklin expresses exactly how APD affects us. If someone is talking or teaching me, I won’t remember it as well as someone who involves me in my learning. At DVFS I was provided with smaller class sizes, supportive teachers, and assistive technology to help me learn, compensate, and become a self-advocate for my APD. I realize that I have to be my best teacher and I’ll always have to compensate and advocate for my needs. These are skills that I will not only need in college, but in life.
Much of my life has been adapting to a world where everyone learns the same. Had it not been for early intervention and being diagnosed with APD at a young age, I would have never been as successful of a student as I am today.
I was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and Dysgraphia at the age of 7.
I remember constantly having IEP meetings with my parents and all of my teachers, and me sitting in the corner silently. During Middle School my schedule consisted of the lowest possible classes and Learning Support classes all throughout the day.
I had a friend who also had a LD and had transferred to a school for kids like us who were struggling. He would always tell me how much better he felt and how much weight was lifted off his shoulders after moving to this new school. After talking with my parents, I decided it was time to try it out. I was able to shadow him for a day and follow him to all his classes. It was a life changing experience. I never realized how much learning I was actually missing. It gave me hope, like a light at the end of a long and dark tunnel.
Nobody with an LD deserves to feel lost or ashamed of how their mind operates. You aren’t stupid. Your mind works in completely different ways than others. Being quiet about your LD is the worst thing you can do for yourself. If you feel as if you aren’t actually learning anything and being pushed through school just getting by, speak up. You won’t regret it in the long run.
When Sarah was asked to work on the My Dyslexia assignment, she chose to make an illustrated video with narration to tell her story.
A learning disability can affect the way you see yourself and how you interact with people. A common misconception about those diagnosed with a learning disability is that they are not intelligent, which simply is not the case.
I’ve come to understand that people who do not quite understand learning differences can be sensitive to them even if they don’t themselves have one. An environment like DV makes it extremely easy to relate to people with an LD different than your own and gain an understanding about other people’s needs. Respect is such an important aspect of understanding people's’ differences, and that is all I’ve seen at DVFS.
As frustrating as a known learning disability can be, an undiagnosed learning disability is more difficult by far. When you do not have the energy or desire to finish or complete assignments and are then labeled as “lazy” or lacking determination it can be extremely disappointing.
I believe that most of the time people think less of people with learning differences. However, I think that they couldn’t be more wrong. Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. I look forward to a world without prejudice about us “fish”.