The Fish in the Tree
by Beth Sennett
It’s been five weeks now since ‘box hand in day’. That momentous occasion where as a teaching student at the Helen Arkell Centre, you suddenly realise why your lounge resembles a Blue Peter set and your friends and family persist in making sarcastic “So that’s what you look like” comments whenever they see you. The mountain of boxes filling the lecture theatre are overflowing with assignments and resources, testimony to the months of hard work and perseverance that has got us to the end of the Level 5 Course. Nine months before the room felt like a very different place.
Walking into that lecture theatre for the first time my first instinct was to hide! An odd reaction from someone who has worked as a teacher for 11 years and delivered staff training days to colleagues in rooms larger than this old converted stable. But as a teacher with dyslexia it is amazing how being confronted with being a student again can have you reaching for all the old tried and tested avoidance strategies. If I sit at the back then nobody will ask me any questions. If I sit quietly they may not notice that I have not got a clue what the person at the front has been wittering on about for the past half hour and if I find someone smart to sit next to then all attention will be on them. I found these fears intensified by the knowledge that I was walking into a room of professionals, many of whom may be SENCOs or Head Teachers. All the more need to remain quiet, in case I’m discovered for the fraud that I feel like.
It is ironic that an experience that began with so much trepidation actually allowed me to experience for the first time, how fulfilling learning can be…
The Comfy Chair
by Beth Sennett
Learning when you are dyslexic can be an uncomfortable experience. Hiding that discomfort takes a lot of effort. You sit fidgeting in a hard chair, anxiety building up inside. The room starts to feel very warm. You look around at your fellow students who are all animated and engaged with this world that is so incredibly disorientating. Somebody asks a question. You suddenly snap back into focus. What was the question? Everybody is talking. Someone asks my opinion! I frantically search for a response. Anything will do! A joke. Say something funny and they may not notice. I am reminded of how inept I am.
When I think back to my time as a Teacher Training student at the Arkell Centre, I realise how different my experience has been. The simple fact that for a year I found myself surrounded by people who understand dyslexia meant that I gradually began to relax and be myself. Understanding came not just from the lectures and staff at the Arkell Centre but also my fellow students, many of whom had children or family members with dyslexia or other SpLDs. I realised how powerful it is, feeling able to mutter the words “I don’t understand” , or “can you repeat that”, without fear of the exasperated looks that would often follow. I felt able to ask the ‘daft’ questions and to my surprise I realised that I often wasn’t the only one who needed things clarifying.
As the course progressed, I began to experience something I had not anticipated. As a dyslexic studying on a course about Dyslexia I suddenly realised that I had a distinct advantage. Many of the characteristics of dyslexia can seem very abstract to those who have not experienced them. The idea of visual disturbances for example can be difficult to imagine but having had first-hand experience of this phenomenon I found myself easily able to understand the concept.
My year at the Arkell Centre was a unique experience for me. With the continued support and encouragement of the tutors and my fellow students, I realised that I had finally found my comfy chair.