They fail to help the student to see how their subject fits in to their lives.
Of course, this is a challenge to any student, but when a student is dyslexic, the amount of effort required to focus and meet targets makes it so difficult for them to re-connect with what is important for them in terms of personal values, their emotions and what is the bigger picture for them in the future.
Teachers are under pressure to deliver outstanding educational outcomes in their students and this pressure on schools also affects teachers motivation. Many teachers get into the profession because they want to teach and help young people to develop and it must be so hard to keep hold of that which motivated them to join the teaching profession when now they are pushed to deliver great results in a certain way that presents significant challenges for the 10 to 15 % of students that are estimated to be living with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.
We have to start with the student and I am painfully aware that many students with dyslexia who will see the picture above and they will think that they are powerless to be motivated as they are trapped in an education system that doesn't resonate with their learning style.
So what can we as parents and teachers do to help our children / students feel more motivated about education on a Monday morning so that we can build engagement?
Inspired by many of the talks by Simon Simek, our kids need to get a sense of their 'why'.
"I do this because...."
The 'Why' is what completes the above sentence. If we know how to complete that sentence (adults and young people alike) we get to be more aware of what is important to us. It can be used to consider our emotions and behaviours and how we interact with others.
For example, if we find ourselves procrastinating, we will of course know that we are procrastinating. In fact I dislike the word 'procrastinate', because it makes it sound like one is not in control of our actions.
Imagine the conversation...
"Yeah, I didn't have a productive day, I was procrastinating a lot!"
"Yeah, I hate it when that happens..."
If we deleted the word "Procrastination" from our dictionaries we would be forced to say...
"Yeah, I didn't have a productive day, I was avoiding getting that essay done!"
This is more helpful as we can then start to understand why we didn't get that essay done. We can start to take ownership of what we do (or don't do) and change what we do if we don't like it.
When I was at school, my 'Why' at the time was that if I didn't do well, I would not be able to get a job and one day be able to support a family. So initially my choice of career came from my 'Why' at the time.
At the age of 15, why was I thinking about having a family?
I wanted to get the best chance of getting a job and be able to sustain a family that I didn't have yet. I was thinking like this because it was what was modelled to me by my parents.
So in one sense, getting that 'Why' from my parents was great as it gave me a good work ethic, but it lead me into a career that initially didn't motivate me and I spent many years studying part time doing a course that gave me more struggles and when I did eventually graduate, I changed my career (I was 29 as I studied part time, I couldn't bear to be in a classroom every day of the week). I started to realise that doing work that connected me with people, excited me, it gave me a buzz. At 29, my work started to get exciting, but it lead me into commercial roles and in those roles I was conflicted. I wanted to connect with people and help them fix problems, but the chief 'Why' of the companies that I worked for was to make money. Eventually, the corporate 'Why' doused water on the flames of my 'Why'. That happened because I was waking up and feeling disempowered to do anything about it until it all got too much and enough was enough.
I had to change.
So often we all change at the 'tipping point' when things get too much. In an educational setting, a child cannot just decide not to go to school because it is too much, they are forced to go to school. So we need to empower them to see how school fits in with their 'Why', the "what's the point?"
When I did my G.C.S.E's the one subject I didn't care about what French. I did work hard on it but I had a teacher that assumed that I would know why speaking French was important. I simply didn't know. I believe that if that teacher had engaged with me to help me to imagine how useful a second language could have become in connecting with people abroad, then my educational outcome in French could have been different.
What didn't help the teacher is that I had no sense of my 'Why'. I had a sense of my parents 'Why' but that wasn't mine. It only gave me motivation for a limited amount of time because it didn't belong to me.
My career has lead me to places all over the world and I have felt the frustration of not being able to make a difference through not being fluent in a different language. I totally get the importance of learning another language NOW! I even have an ambition to learn another language one day because in those moments when I have tried to speak to someone in their language, I have felt the joy of that communication and I can see that the other person appreciates the effort that I have put in to connect with them where they are. We have been able to change the world in our own little way simply by communicating better.
I would have learned French more effectively if the motivation of the system was not so much about exam results and more about getting why it was important to learn a new language.
I am not saying that helping a dyslexic student to understand their 'Why' helps them to all of a sudden absorb the information from a learning style that clashes with their own. Of course it won't, but mentally, if a student knows what gives them a buzz from honouring what is important to themselves then if they were struggling in a subject, then they will be more motivated to ask for help rather than act up. The teacher may have a better chance of understanding what is happening for the student and may change the way that they teach and those little changes will make the education process a deeper more meaningful experience for the student because it is feeding their 'Why' rather than forcing them to fill their heads with information.
What are your thoughts? I would really love to have your feedback on what you have just read or to find out more about your experiences as a dyslexic student or perhaps as a teacher supporting a dyslexic student.
Find out more about Special Educational Needs and how these affect kids.I am speaking at the SEN Jigsaw Conference in April. This conference brings together talks and workshops that specifically explore Special Educational Needs and equips parents, teachers and SENCos with the latest information on how to support young people with SEN.
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