Saturday, December 26, 2009

#2 - Set the regulations for the classroom and be sure that the students follow them.

This is post 2 of series on How not to Teach.

In many modern classrooms it is very easy to forget why the class has come together.  The students are there to learn and the teacher is there to help them learn.  When the teacher becomes obsessed with the process of keeping order in the classroom, the students soon forget why they are in school at all.  The classroom becomes a prison.  In a classroom in which development of independent students is paramount, power is infinite because the emphasis is on empowerment of the student to learn.  It is true that order must be kept in the classroom, but not at the sacrifice of student confidence and faith in themselves..  Empowerment is taught through example,  opportunity and practice.

It is the job of teachers to set up an environment where the students feel a part of a community of learners.  Empowerment, group process and a sense of community must be learned and earned over a period of time by the entire class, including the teacher.  Teachers who see themselves embarking on a venture, in which cooperation is the key, will find that they are participating in a growing, changing, classroom community.  The key word here is community, in a community every one participates in the process of day to day living.  No amount of legislation, dictation or regulation will create a community of learners.  Only a good example and a humble teacher can do that.

This idea of sacrificing individual liberty and learning for the order of the classroom, and by extension the society, comes out of the middle ages when an education was received in monastery from monks.  The monks were into practicing austerity, sacrifice and simplicity.  They also recognized that religions tend to fragment with out a heavy dose of guilt and pain to keep everyone in the same line.  They organized there class rooms like churches with pews and pulpit.  These are all concepts that we don’t really need in the 21st century, but these puritan values remain present still in most classrooms.

This is #2 of 12 Ways to Turn a Teacher into a Prison Guard.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

#1 - Demonstrate your expertise in the classroom from day one and do not allow students to challenge you.

Teachers who are just beginning in the field most commonly follow this rule.  Whenever the students become emotionally involved in what is going on in the classroom, the teacher will step in to calm things down and prevent the class from escaping the teaches control and getting out of hand.  In this way, the teacher stops the learning process, taking control every time the class attempts to go beyond the guidance of the teacher.  No private space or independent development is allowed inside the expert’s schedule and classroom.

No learning is allowed to take place because any true knowledge gained would challenge the teacher’s ability to speak with authority.  The teacher speaks down to the student and is uninterested in what the student offers in the relationship between student and teacher.  The teacher, who is busy showing their expertise off to the students, may or may not notice an attempt by the class to be independent, let alone take the opportunity to facilitate it.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  It's important to see how being the all knowing teacher can be a very satisfying, if ineffective role, to play in the classroom.    

This is 1 of 12 ways to turn a teacher into a prison guard.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Intro to 12 ways to turn a Teacher into a Prison Guard.

This series will attempt to examine the 12 basic traditional rules of teaching that block a student’s learning process.  Currently these rules could easily describe the interaction of many classrooms in the U.S. and abroad.  Luckily, many teachers intuitively knew that the twelve rules did not facilitate the learning process.  Growing numbers of people understand that teaching is a process of facilitating empowerment of the student's individual learning process.

The Factory Model remains today the ideal classroom of our culture, despite over a hundred years of reform and progressive attempts to change the system.  The American vision of what a teacher does, is a day filled with drills, spelling tests, read along, sitting in straight rows, and homework.  This system of dealing with kids has evolved from a medieval model into the factory model classroom of the 19th century, a model that was developed and implemented with the management tools and philosophies of that century.  System of education designed to teach Americans a common culture and political apathy.  The current apathy and political listlessness isn’t responsible for a failure of the educational system; the political apathy of the American population is a direct result of that education system

Students and parents need to recognize themselves as consumers of a system of education.   Once a student see they have choices in the school setting with the help of their parent, they begin to take the political power to improve their education.  The public school system is forced to recognize parents who expect their inherent power to change the basic philosophy behind education.  Parents and children can move beyond the consumer choice and create their our own models and ideals for what education means

A revolution in education needs to happen in the United States today.  It is change of philosophy, not method that will rescue American education.  The politics of education is currently defined by a struggle over who will control our schools.   The politics of education can be about cooperating to unleash our youth’s ability to learn and change the world.

Just another update.

Tomorrow I will begin publishing my opus from college on the How to Not Teach or 12 ways to turn a teacher into a prison guard.  This article was written by me during my last semester of college in 1993  I will be updating it for clarity.  These post are actually far more radicle then anything else I have published here before - I wrote this post while researching whole language reading theory and practice and other radicle teaching methods.

I wrote this piece while I was doing a direct for college credit teaching sessions.  That's when I met with a teacher for an hour a week, did additional independent work and got a full college credit for a class.  If I had only known about this when I started college I would have done all or most of my class work this way. 

On another note my process on this blog had changed -
1) am editing my work with a much lighter heart.
2) Wow  I am editing my writing at all. Amazing
3) I have become very comfortable with sharing non main stream ideas about education.
4) Those ideas have defiantly developed.

I hope you enjoy this series...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Feeling an impact

I have been writing the dyslexic storytellers blog for the past two years for mostly my own sense of self recognition and self respect - perhaps a little bit of pure need for release of frustrations relating to dyslexia.  During that time I have had a view calls  from people who are parents of dyslexic children and that has been exciting.   Mostly because I care so much and secondly the assumption that the average American starts off with about the meaning of the words dyslexia, learning disabilities and schooling boggle my mind.

Recently I received two calls that have forced me to stop and examine my goals for this blog.  One is an invitation to attend the Diamonds in the Rough conference in Washington D.C. to be interviewed on some of the topics I have written about here on the blog.   The 2nd call is from the editor of one of the most commonly used special ed text books in university settings who shall remain nameless for the moment.   She had some questions - The point is this blog is having a bigger impact then I realized and so I am going to think about how I can refocus and redouble my work for the immediate future - I want to move beyond questioning the approach to dyslexia in modern society - I want to find a new approach - I want to move away from issues of integration of dyslexic students and examine how dyslexic students can live in modern society as themselves.

What does it mean to be dyslexic and not be limited by it?
What does it mean to grow up never feeling stupid or side lined?
How have people who are dyslexic found happiness in this world?

In faith that there are answers...

Eric Wolf

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Now Back to Storytelling for children and adults...

Years ago I started my fairy tale line Fairytales Forever as Fairy tales for Single Parents.  These stories a rose out of my work with inner city children in New York City.  Many of whom are growing up in single parent household.  This seven CD set touches on issues of interest to modern children through recasting the fairytales of old.  I am planning on finishing this set next spring.  You can read more about the Fairy Tales forever series at

Sean Buvala is working the other end of this market brilliantly with his new e-book Daddy Teller.  Which you can read all about at  What I really like about Sean's work - with out having read it  - is that he is empowering fathers everywhere to use storytelling role model there children.  How else could you get the most bang for your very limited time with your children?

You could take my free e-course on Zen and the Art of storytelling in Seven Simple Steps, but that would still leave gaping holes in your knowledge of how to use storytelling with children as a dad. (or a mom) The fact is that knowing how to perform and knowing how to be present with your children are vastly different skill sets.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

12 workshops I wish were at the International Dyslexia Association Conference this year...

Here are the 12 workshops that would serve the attendees - if they happened upon them at this weeks IDA conference.

  1. Statistical relationships in early age bedside home reading and dyslexic student reading later in life.
  2. How to guide to storytelling in the home.  Learning reading through desire.
  3. An interview with a dyslexic lawyer, doctor, teacher, fisherman and fireman.
  4. An open discussion with 3 parents who raised dyslexic children.
  5. The relationship between diet and the brain of your child.
  6. How to get students to care about reading when school has kicked the shit out of them.
  7. Un-schooling the school were no one has a label.
  8. My Waldorf schooled dyslexic child - the good, the bad and the lovely.
  9. An examination of self interest - money and the role it plays in school settings. 
  10. Chinese lessons on dyslexia; using the herbs of the east.
  11. When Dog let's you down.  Discussions on God and dyslexia.
  12. I feel...  How to listen to your teenage Dyslexic. 
I would love to find one of these workshops at the conference.
If you saw one this past week please let me know right a way.  ;-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wish I was at the International Dyslexia Association Conference this week... not really.

The International Dyslexia Association(IDA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, scientific, and educational organization dedicated to the study and treatment of the learning disability, dyslexia as well as related language-based learning differences.  Click the link to go to there website.

If your a long time reader you will see right away that my approach and the associations to dyslexia is in direct conflict.  Reading through the conference brochure I am struck by how many of the workshops are about getting dyslexic children to mainstream as quickly as possible.  These are children with a completely disconnected learning style form the the style of teaching that is used in modern schools.

Basically it's the word "treatment" that bothers me.  I am not sick - I do not need a doctor or therapist because of my dyslexia.  Though you may argue with me successfully that after attending public and private school as dyslexic person I may be in need of a therapist to rebuild my self confidence.  There is nothing wrong with me - I just think different then 80% of every one else.  I am not broken, but me and my kind have existed for a long time and will exist for years to come.

Maybe dyslexic children are the canaries in the coal mine- demonstrating to us and to our whole society that the modern model of schooling is broken and in need of reform.
For my next post I will propose 12 workshops I wish were at the International Dyslexia Association Confer

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dyslexia is more then not spelling.

Sometimes it is difficult for people to understand that dyslexia is more then just having difficulty with reading, grammar and spelling.  If only that were the case, dyslexia is a struggle with literate world that insists on treating everyone like they can fill out forms by hand.  For many people, dyslexia also effects their audio recognition and more importantly precognition of events.  In other words time is particularly difficult concept for many people who are dyslexic.

Both the movement of time and planning the use of time can be very difficult for dyslexic children and adults.  As a professional storyteller I have struggled for years with stage timing and how to be aware of the time on stage without breaking contact with the audience.

Another reality that many dyslexic children and adults face is shame and other emotional baggage related to their struggle to function in a literate society.  A society that does not seem to recognize best effort or tried really hard, but only recognizes spelled everything correctly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Scary Stories are good for your children," says host of the Art of Storytelling Show.

Eric James Wolf, professional storyteller and host of the Art of Storytelling Show, is available for print, radio and television interviews to speak on how scary stories can be used to teach important life skills to children.

Scary stories and ghost stories have been used for thousand of years to gather interest in young people towards learning a new subject. Eric Wolf says “From ghost stories to strangers giving your child candy; scary stories have been used to help young people identify danger in the world.” Useful scary stories and ghost stories are based on truth, teach valuable skills and leave the audience feeling empowered against the villain or evil of the story.

Eric Wolf host and producer of the Art of Storytelling Show with over 100,000 downloads to date is the longest running, most successful show ever produced dedicated solely to perfecting the art of storytelling.

For more information:

The Definition of Success for Dyslexic students.

Recently I was asked to present at a conference on my success as a dyslexic person.  I don't feel particularly succesful.  I have the same amount of frineds as everybody I know, maybe less.  I am married and I am a sucesful step parent.  I have a business that is not really the runaway success I want it to be (yet).  But when I turn off my fairly well developed mind of the critic.  (and where did I develop this idea of the critic you may ask? - don't get me started.)

I find that I am very succesful.  I live in my dream house to my dream woman.  I have my dream job and I work really hard at it with some very specatcular results.  If not the spectacular fiscal success - I have developed some substainsial results - and I am looking forward to even more in the coming months.

In every measure of the word success - I can say that I am successful.  I set goals and I accomplish them - I have setbacks and move past them.  I am a functioanl dyslexic person.  Except that is not really the term I would use - I am really a functional whole person.  I am something that I was never taught in school.  Somehting that is not in the curiculm.  A sum of the whole l that is harder to find then then the numbers.

I am a human being.  Dyslexia is just a term to help the world understand and forgive my limitations of my humanity.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

No Computer Allowed....

I had to go to court to support a friend and I discovered a sign that blew me away - no computers or electronic devices allowed.  Can you believe it?  In defense of the need for privacy the court has gone to far I think.  How are people with out decent handwriting to function?  What if I had wanted to take notes?  Or if I had needed to demonstrate to the court some evidence of some sort or other that is on my computer.

I probably would have needed to bear the $$$ of printing - trust it to government to be the last refuge of the luddite.  All hands raised for the courts.  Truth, justice and paper only please.  From an evidence stand point I think the computer and electronic documentation too easily changed.  Not that paper is any more solid really.

The assumption is that all attendees can write and then read a sentence in notes.  But times are changing and many people keep notes on there laptop or even blueberry - expect of course in the Court system.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ten Rules for Faking it...

Again my readers inspire me...  I have not set foot inside a english classroom in years or discussed current remedial reading teaching techniques since 2000, But I can rest assured that this basic tenet of teaching has not changed in the last ten years.

Don't teach the student how to cheat, fake it or get by.  Instead make them slog through the material, because it's honest and necessary

What other handicapped group is forced to submit too such a rule?  Are blind people forced to live with out canes because it makes them more honest.   Children with glasses forced to live without them to be more real?

I wonder how many of teachers teach kids how to fake it?  I mean at what point do we look a child in the eye and say; "Well you are 3 years behind the learning curve here are ten survival strategies that might be useful for you to know."

Maybe this did happen to me - I just don't remember it.  But I don't think so.  This is a big problem in modern education - people who have consistently failed to learn to read should be taught basic survival strategies.

Lets go through them here...

1) Lie - Well this was the hardest one for me and probably the biggest lesson.  The powerless always have the right to lie to the powerful and who is less powerful then a student who can't read in a modern classroom.

2) Cheat - I am still not a fan of cheating cause I grew up a good kid.  But I do believe in getting help from my friends on homework - I believe in many places that is called cheating.  I just call it group support.  Hint - you have to use your own handwriting if you can.

3) If all else fails just don't respond.  A raised eyebrow may just prompt the answer to appear.  Silence is the best defense of the cornered.

4) Sit strategically - The front row is great for hearing the teacher.  But if the teacher likes to pick people out during class.  Sit in the back behind the biggest kid you can find.

5) Get your homework done early - But think about not completing certain tasks tactically.  Remember certain tasks take a huge amount of energy others much less.  Weigh your options and choose not to take some.  A captain of sinking ship can't save everything.

6) Books on tape are at the library and librarians are willing to find them for you - need I say more?

7) Pick a day of the week and never do any reading and writing on that day - ever.

8) Don't Cheat on Tests - This is fairly important rule - I have never met a test cheater who didn't get caught - of course I also did fairly well on non essay tests without cheating.

9) The goal is too pass - getting an A is great - but man a C- is just as satisfying when your working your ass off

10) Dear Reader - What rule do you think should be inserted here?

a) Send out an SOS and Ask for Help - admit to the adults who are kind and trustworthy that you need their assistance.

b) Laugh more - need I say more?

c) Stop the Blame Game - Blind people don's feel guilty for not being able to see - they might get frustrated sometimes - but they don't blame themselves for not being able to see...


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Functional Illiteracy

While everybody learning to read is a worthwhile goal.  Yea Reading!   I question the timing of the goal in educational settings and I question the value of forced literacy given the digital age we live in.  But I wanted to examine the intense pressure we place on individuals who for whatever reason can't read and the underlying realties faced by people who are illiterate in a society that is based on the power of the written word.

I mention this because my hand writing is pretty much illegable - and that's if I am focused and really working hard.  Forget reading a note from me if I am busy or in a hurry.  Reading for me is a well won prize - but not when I am doing something else like say driving.  Many a time have I been lost from not being able to read the road signs because the driving needed to be focused on.  I prefer to have a navigator and I avoid a cell phones in the car like the plague...  I have always been convinced that they are too much of a distraction.

Literacy for me is based on two things desire and access to successful readers.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that successful young readers are more likely to have parents who read books in the house.   Children copy what they are exposed too and we know that.   We recognize that literacy in the United Sates is no longer in question.  The question is how will be behave towards those who can not or will not be taught to read or write.

I am a big fan of literacy campaigns and giving books away as much as the next fellow...  But can we get over any shame or embarrassment at being unable to read or write.  Maybe we could just assume that if some one can't write - it's not from a lack of trying.  That if some one can't read - it's not for want of desire.  Let us treat those left behind in the literacy wars as battlefield casualties.   Exempt form the needs of service they are the handicapped few who can with distinction serve our country or our people in other ways without the need to ever pickup a book, fill out a form or test.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How do I know if I am dyslexic?

How indeed... Dyslexia as a word is only as useful as you relate to Institue teaching and institutional learning.  The term forces institutions to bend their rules on apply tests to students so that a dyslexic person can succeed.  Get more time on tests, access to a typewriter, a spell checker during written tests or oral examinations.  Creating a level playing field for the dyslexic student.

A dyslexic person who is working in a private setting can normally pass successfully without revealing themselves.  Though on occasion they may be embarrassed – usually other people will not connect this with dyslexia.

I have even heard of people who could not read passing in the public for years.  I would ask you if you are asking this question - How do I know if I am dyslexic?

Does it matter?

I mean really if you are not currently in school then it probably does not matter.  If on the other hand you are in school, current law is pretty clear.  Every student in the United States and United Kingdom has the right to be tested for learning disabilities and their teaching plan changed to fit their basic needs so they can succeeded.

So if you are in school you should already know the answer - if not - then does it really matter?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Good Day Bad Day

One of the most difficult things to explain to people who are not dyslexic is that learning disabilities are not constant. LDS is not like lighting a room where you can just say that the effect is set or controllable.

People ask me - can you spell, or what is your reading like? Most days it’s just like yours is my answer. After eight years of basic English and with the help of constantly writing new posts for this blog I have improved my style and writing comfort in the last year. Still I have bad days and good days.

Spelling is relative – grammar extra credit. Getting back to the point here – so if dyslexia is biological state and changes from one day to the next in relative effects. What happens when a dyslexic student goes in for a test o a bad day? If the student has the ability to change the test date – nothing will happen. If the school system is not flexible then the student suffers through a hard day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Importance of Family.

Just so you know this blog has certain rules that explain why I don't have any one proof these blog posts... Dyslexia

When I was still in school back in the early 80’s the psychological pressures on me were immense. I was struggling just to get up in the morning and as a young 13 year old I was also trying my best to forge a new identity separate from my parents. I honestly did not know much and I thought I knew all I ever needed to know about the world. I thought that this is the way of the world.

The emotional bedrock of my teenage years was that I could take for granted that my parents loved and accepted me. I can remember no occasion where they dressed me down or chewed me out because of my bad grades or failure to be academically successful. Both of my parents struggled with feelings of guilt, but they both refused to pass off or express these feelings at me. My parents understood that the last thing a dyslexic child needs is to be yelled at because of bad grades.

I can not stress enough the importance of supportive home life. I am talking about regular meals and at least one parent present at all times in the house. I am not talking about faking a marriage so that both parents can live in the same house. I am talking about the parent who has the child checking in everyday with homework and other school work. Most importantly knowing where the child is at all times. This creates a sense of safety for the child that can not be over estimated. Dyslexic children struggle with issues of safety. School is not safe so it becomes very important that home be safe. By safe I mean predictable, scheduled and comfortable.

Good Luck. As a parent I can only tell you that parental guilt is not really helpful unless it inspires action so cut it out ok?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Left or Right of Dyslexia

Make sure you take the time to read the rest of my posts on my dyslexic blog.

Yesterday I got lost for five minutes. My directions said turn left at the second light and I got to the first traffic light (it was red) and during that two minutes of sitting there and thinking about storytelling and the world; I discovered that I could not remember witch light I was at – the first one or the second one. So I turned left and after a few minutes realized something was up and drove into a gas station to get directions.

This experience is a classic dyslexic moment. Two lefts – take the 2nd left no problem with left was that? 2nd left? Right? HA. In this case the answer was not that important my 20-year-old daughter had to wait for a few more minutes at the airport. But I can think of a lot of situations where it does matter a great deal to not get confused as to the correct choice. So I slide away from jobs or responsibilities that place too much weight on one decision. EMT or Surgeon come to mind for me.

There are many dyslexic people who hold positions like these and they have developed coping mechanisms that they can trust. Part of what happens is the newness of the choice creates the opportunity for confusion. I would not be confused at the traffic lights in my town of Yellow Springs Ohio. There are five total. This particular set of directions was important and time was a factor. Pressure is the other side of this equation. A little bit of pressure increases the chance a dyslexic person will make a language related mistake not less.

Maybe I should add cross-country taxi driver to my list – but GPS systems make a great compensation method if I can just get over my pride and joy of figuring it out for myself.

To read more about my work as a storyteller please check out my main website click here storytelling.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Labels as Good - Labels as Bad

Eric Wolf writes on Dyslexic on his Blog

On the last blog post a reader of this blog commented - witch is always nice - hint, hint, wink, wink and nudge, nudge. She wrote a nice note suggesting that it was a mistake to embrace the label of dyslexia that we are not served by embracing labels because we are not our labels we are ourselves. I could not agree more... in fact to me the road too freedom for dyslexic children is in the opposite direction from more time spent learning to read, write or do any schooling at all - but towards a lifestyle where they are able to master their confidence, there faith in themselves and grow up with out ever having to be told day after day that they need to learn harder or faster

While I agree with the thrust of my readers comment - I wonder if we make an error in abandoning the label so quickly. I have spent much of my life running from the label and must examine the consequence of all those actions. Judged with out the label I am ineffective, sloppy and a lazy. Judged with the label I am working hard, highly intelligent and driven. In fact only when I embraced the label did I really find some success in any literate or academic endeavors

If I were blind you would not expect me to abandon my label and take driving lessons. If I had no legs you would not want me ot give up my label and crawl up the stairs. Labels for handicapped people are very helpful they allow others to see what limits exist for us and under what circumstances we are likely to succeed or doomed to failure. Of course we are not our labels - but we have to recognize that the label protects handicapped people from being placed in a situation that is precarious to us.

I clearly can write and read. Many dyslexic people cannot. I clearly can spell to a degree that is rare among dyslexic's. In an academic environment when identify as dyslexic and I call upon the help offered by the handicapped accessibility law. I am allowed certain supports. I can be very successful, but only when I embrace my label. To do other wise in that situation is fool hardy and self-destructive.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nuts in Bolts of being Dyslexic

Recently I had a classic dyslexic experience.
For the past five months my phone service has been telling that it has messages.

As a dyslexic person I have tendency to switch the audio recognition of sounds, colors or other stimulus. Red means green, black is white, t is h or yes means no. While the more obvious red and green analogy is rare for me these days. I have been known on a once every five years occasion to go through a red light. (That could be an interesting PHD for some one; Dyslexia and traffic accidents – anyone?)

Usually for me dyslexia means that I have to dumb down what I say to write – or - I have to use words of simpler variety in order to communicate effectively.

When I read - My optimum communication style is the first person spoken narrative.
When I speak it - Communication is easy for me by word of mouth using stories.
When I write it - Storytelling works the best.

That little exercise made my head hurt - Back to the phone service.

The phone company sent me a signal (when I pick up my phone the dial tone - stutters or blinks.)
I, as dyslexic person, reversed the meaning of the stimulus. For the past 5 months I have been thinking that no one - has left me a message. Think about that - not a week not a month for the last five months I was convinced that none of my calls were returned.

I mean really; how is that possible? You could think - well Eric is an idiot. I had tests - and I'm not really. So there is another explanation. Well - many dyslexic people have memory issues. They fail to connect past language related events with present ones with current ones. Dyslexic children struggle with issues of time and time management. The long and the short of it is – I didn’t notice that more then a week had gone by with out getting a message.

Not to forget that dyslexic people have lower self esteem then other populations. So it is onlly natural for a dyslexic person to think that on one called them. ☹ Did I mention the 60 messages waiting for me in my voice mail?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Gift of Story

While not writing for this Dyslexic Blog I have a career as a storyteller I am currently attending the Talk Story Conference in Waikiki Hawaii and yesterday I went out and volunteered for my friend Jeff Gere who set up the conference and works for the Honolulu parks and recreation department. A bunch of us storyteller went off and told stories at various camps and parks programs just for fun. I forget how much I enjoy just telling stories to children – that as an artist I get so wrapped up in the passionate desire that storytelling and the arts in general get accepted – no – get embraced that I forget the simple joy that is one person telling to an audience of children who are so thrilled to listen. When the audience is so jazzed to see you - you get jazzed to be with them and suddenly it's like your flying. Not work - just the joy of storytelling.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Value of Childhood

Recently a fellow storyteller Bill Harley wrote a blog post on the reality of childhood and how over protective human society has become.  Read his post on “Is childhood more dangerous now?” 

I would suggest that as the average age of our society has risen and as our society has become less spiritual, less community oriented and more individual, cynical and isolated.  We have become more afraid of death.  Death is no longer seen as natural – but instead is the elephant in the room.  Any accident any encounter with the unknown becomes an opportunity for death to stalk us or our family.  All great lies have a gleam of truth and death really is stalking all of us.  The good news that life just wouldn’t be the same with out it.  Death gives sweetness to life it forces us to face our fears it forces us to live.  We know that at some time in the future we will die and we better get our act together and do the best we can in this life because someday with or with out warning the clock will stop.

But we have denied death to our children.  Not in the sense that we have prevented it – but in the sense that we have separated it from out children’s lives.  We have bubble wrapped death in pink ribbons and video games where death means you get another life just like the one you had – isn’t that nice?

But the cool thing about the post that Bill wrote is that he is talking about a problem that has been going on for a long time – the invasion and the capitalization of children’s lives to they point were they have no time to 1) be themselves 2) be around children only spaces and 3) make there own mistakes.

But there is a whole different level to this conversation. Today much of the natural world in America as it was experienced in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s has been paved over to develop suburban housing. We have built a world were many children just don’t have the space to explore – they don’t have the excess to the opportunity.

We have built a world with out wood lots, streams or fields. This lack of access prevents the question did you play in the woods today? from even arising.

I (my family) live in the vale, a 13 family land trusted community on 37 acres of woods and fields.  We have given up real-estate speculation and gained the knowledge that our children spent time growing up building dams unsupervised in the local stream or rope swinging off a 20 foot drop or sneaking up on skunks.   Or a hundred other activates that they survived unscathed form and I never heard about.   These experiences gave them fortitude and a strength of character that can’t be duplicated by camp or school.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Doubt sucks.

or The physiological and psychological realities of being Dyslexic.
Thanks for reading this blog for more blog posts check out the rest of my work at
 I am sitting in a classroom in 3rd grade.  My heart rate is high I am in fight or flight mode.  I can feel my pulse beating behind my ears.  The room seems hot – I can’t help but look around the room for a place to hide.  Maybe if I slouched down in my chair I could avoid being picked out by the teacher.  I can not read.  I am the only non-reader in my class and I know it.  I am a shamed.  I wait all day for recess and pray it does not rain.
I am sitting in beginning Spanish in 7th grade.  I have no idea what is going on in the classroom.  I work hard at night to catch up, but I slip further and further behind.  My body does not know that I am sitting in a classroom in the best junior-high in Manhattan.  Instead my body believes that it is walking across the African safari with a lion behind every bush.  I am preparing to fight or run for my life.
The teacher addresses me in Spanish and I freeze.   A useful response to a lion or a leopard, but not to a Spanish teacher.
I am sitting in basic biology in college.  I keep notes religiously.  I can’t read half of them or figure out what they mean.  When I use the text book I find the new words overwhelming.  I test on reading compression tests better then my peers, but here where the words are too many, too new and complex I find it difficult to associate the words on the page with the words that are spoken in the lectures.  I enjoy the lectures and discussions, but during labs and exams years of training kick in an I turn into a adrenaline junkie who looks like bumbling fool.
Dyslexic individuals have millions of years of biology working against them as they attempt to work there way through the literate world.  As I have written before in this blog the biggest block to the success of a dyslexic person is the realization that success starts outside of the fields that dyslexic students are weakest in.  As human being’s we need to build on previous success and previous triumphs in order to build into our weakness.  The disadvantage that dyslexic people start with such a handicap they need to create other areas of success to hold them over whether is theater, sports, math, science, fantasy, or relationships.  Before suffering the trials and tribulations of dyslexia it is important that students have some touch stone of success.
Thanks for reading this blog for more blog posts check out the rest of my work at

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Definition of Education

Eric Wolf is a storyteller whose work can be viewed on

Words are tempting to use and take for granted.   To explore the root of words is too explore their common usage and their hidden meaning.  In the industrial revolution the schools were used to bring a rural and disparate population into the modern industrial world.

Dyslexic individuals have through there inability to function successfully in school settings demonstrated the hidden agenda of schools.  Modern schools are creating a uniform and generic cultural norm that is useful to a government that seems more interested in creating a population that is willing to follow orders then create solutions.  Dyslexic students are revolutionaries not because they want to be – but because they must be to survive.

I have written here before on the importance of growing children who maintain there ability to be creative in the 21st century where creativity is the coin of the realm.  But first let us exam in what the current idea of education is based on.  Here is the current uusage fo the word education on…

Usage: Education, properly a drawing forth, implies not so much the communication of knowledge as the discipline of the intellect, the establishment of the principles, and the regulation of the heart. Instruction is that part of education which furnishes the mind with knowledge. Teaching is the same, being simply more familiar. It is also applied to practice; as, teaching to speak a language; teaching a dog to do tricks. Training is a department of education in which the chief element is exercise or practice for the purpose of imparting facility in any physical or mental operation. Breeding commonly relates to the manners and outward conduct.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.  (Bold is by me.)


If education is about tempering the heart and ruling the emotions of the individual… if education is about getting the mind in top shape at the expense of every other aspect of the soul’s journey through life, from the emotional maturity of the students, to the flexibility of the body then perhaps it is time we admitted that the current model – the current ideal of education is completely off the track for what we want for our children.

How do we build a world where education is no longer seen as what is done to you, but instead education is what a student does to themselves because there desire and hunger for knowledge is so great.  If point of Education is temper the passions of the heart and the creativity of the soul.  Then perhaps it is time time less children were educated - the world may indeed improve.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What we owe to the Wheelchair.

Eric Wolf is a Storyteller and you can read more about his work at

It is tempting to think that Dyslexic students are not handicapped. After all they don’t look any different then other students in the public schools. So it is natural to just think of them as kids who need more time to do their homework. That is if we forget the lesson of the wheelchair.

A wheelchair is obvious and the steps in front of the building are just as obvious. If there is no elevator or ramps to gain access to a building - then by definition the building is not accessible to the handicapped. There are still a disturbing number of building that are not accessible to a wheelchair bound person in America today and this lack of access is physically defined and powerfully self-evident.

Dyslexic students also need help getting past own set of “steps”. They need help making school accessible if they are to participate. This is true whether or not you can see the steps that block them from successfully accessing the public school system.

For some students that may mean having a teacher’s assistant in the classroom to help them with their reading assignment. For other students that may mean allowing the dyslexic student more time to read or perhaps giving them a shorter spelling list for spelling tests. For other students them may mean not posting the results of test in a public setting or having grades define the classroom experience of the student.

Of course it is critical that dyslexic students and all learning disabled students be treated as mainstream students and allowed access to regular recess and nonacademic activities. How many parents have been told – you son or daughter is dyslexic so we held hum back form recess to give them more reading lessons? Would we hold back a semi-blind child to study reading as well during recess? How about short child to grow faster?

The lesson of the Wheelchair is that handicapped access is structurally a part of modern society and that when access is not provided the barrier of the student to participate successfully in the activity is defined before the event starts. Thus the success or failure of dyslexic student in a school setting has more to do with the school then the student.

Monday, April 27, 2009

7) Our weakness becomes our strongest asset.

(This is the 7th post in a series on 7 principles that every parent should know about their dyslexic child. To see them all click here – 7 tips for dyslexic parents.)

The human mind has an amazing ability to compensate for any inability to cope with the processing of information. Can’t see colors and need to cross the street? - learn to watch for the actions of other people. Can’t smell very well? – realize that a wet nose smells better then a dry one. Blind and want your clothes to match? – learn to store them in sets in your closet.

Whatever the physical limitation, the human mind is very capable of adapting to the situation. Because of my dyslexia I have become a very effective storyteller and public speaker. I learned early in life to use my vocal ability to compensate for my inability to read and write. Basically when I was young I needed to think quick on my feet.

Because of my dyslexia I am an expert at information management, learning to learn and productivity strategies. I may not use them all that time – but I can teach you how to use them effectively. I have spent more time studying how people learn then I care to admit. I am well versed in many different methods of organization and I even know witch ones are better for dyslexics to use successfully.

Dyslexia will force your child to grow in other areas to compensate for their inability to compete effectively in the realm of literacy. Best of all, your child will learn one of the most important strategies to over all life success; how to ask for help. I know that this can be hard to hear for parents of dyslexic children. The silver lining is not so shiny when you’re looking at a 3rd grader who can’t read in a public school setting.

There have been numerous studies demonstrating that dyslexic people make better business people and are more successful as entrepreneurs. Your child will learn to ask for help when they can’t effectively complete a task by themselves.. This is the number one reason that one half of all successful entrepreneur are certified dyslexic. They learned young that if you can’t do it yourself get someone else to do it for you.

One of the worst lessons taught in public school settings is that work should be completed in isolation. Dyslexic children learn the opposite lesson because they most have someone else involved in there writing projects to complete them. Through a perverse trick of political intrigue and Machiavellian thought the public schools are forced to allow them and even supply this support to the students. Thank God (or Washington) for the Americans Disability Act because schools are required to give support to disabled children so that they can succeed.

Eric Wolf

Monday, April 20, 2009

Should Storytelling Conferences be Professionally Recorded?

Last summer I pushed for the recording of important sessions of the National Storytelling Network’s (NSN) 2008 Conference I was recording my session on the future of storytelling online for this podcast. I figured why not do a little more? I exhausted myself and recorded the membership session and the regional NSN rep session. These recording are the property of NSN. Unluckily I work for myself like most artists and it took me two months to edit the work – then having finished it - I promptly forgot about it. Finally in November I got my copies to the NSN board. Jo Radner, the NSN board chair was very excited about getting some key sessions recorded. I got the feeling the board would have liked faster service – but you know the old saying you get what you pay for and I was free.

Others recorded the Keynotes and the Master storytellers concert. I don’t know what happened to these files. I’m sure the NSN got a copy of them somewhere. The master storytellers performance - Doc McConnell’s last performance - was almost not recorded! I saw the volunteer putting his equipment away before the performance, and when I asked why, I was told by NSN volunteers that the storytellers would never agreed to their work being recorded.

So I walked up to each storyteller and asked them for permission to record their performance “for NSN” with any other uses to be worked out later. They all said yes with a great deal of passion and Doc McConnell said we could do anything NSN wanted with his recording. I’m sure I was too pushy for bystanders

The reality is that storytelling has an advantage over other art forms, because new work is always being created. We all have material that we have not performed in years. We all have stories that were once primary to our performance, but now no longer capture our attention. What if all of that material was still available? Mostly I try to downplay storytellers’ fears by asking this one question: Reframing the whole debate… Do you want to be a part of the historical record?

That is how I would frame this debate over recording conference sessions.

Five years from now if this material is available will it still matter to you? Won’t you be on to other things?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have this historical moment recorded? The question is not “Do we record our conference sessions?” The question really is ”When do we release our conference sessions? One year? Two years? Five years from now?”

The storytelling skill set is timeless – the skills and abilities we have today will not, unlike computers, internet or blogging, become old fashioned – they are ageless. I personally know that the storytelling movement has a lot to offer the world and think it’s time we stepped up to the plate to offer our skills. NSN or any other national organization could be the vehicle for that delivery. Who ever builds a content delivery system around the art of storytelling first will win that race and be the source for the international storytelling movement for the next twenty years. My website is well on the way to being the source for all things relating to storytelling with children, but what about storytelling with seniors, in business, marketing, or any of a dozen different topics that I have not had time or resources to cover in the depth that should be covered?

NSN could be so much more then a network, using it’s conference it could bring the separate candles of the storytelling community into a bright light that would shine forth across the world.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Recess in American Education

Remember recess that time in school where you got a break from your daily chore of home-work? As adults we have learned that breaks are important to productivity. Regular scheduled breaks increase creativity and the ability of students to retain information.

Many adults have fond memories of growing up in public school, but here in America our children are attending schools where increasingly recess has been marginalized or removed all together to make way for more study time. Like a run away fright train going down hill every faster the idea that children should learn reading, writing and arthritic at ever earlier ages has taken over our school systems. Forget character education, creative genius or empathy development; will they score to grade level? is the question being asked by everybody in today’s school systems.

In the name of increased test scores recess has been removed from ever lower levels of education until it can be seen as reasonable to see a day when there will be no recess in our public schools.

Recess was a time of slight supervision where children had a moment to explore their personal identity. Where they were able to keep a little piece of that uniquely American experience that was the backyard, the neighborhood or just hanging out with your friends. This time is increasingly gone. Removed by system of parenting and an educational philosophy that says that an unsupervised child is a danger to themselves and their environment.

The rub is that recess is supervised: the child’s choice of activities is not. Recess is not acceptable because it reminds us that children don’t need to be supervised to learn, children don’t need constant adult attention and children can get by for increasingly large amounts of time by themselves with out us. Recess reminds that even after a hundred years of an increasingly dogmatic and bureaucratic American educational system that the essential nature of American children is of independence. Clearly recess has got to go so that we can have more tests, learn one more spelling word and demonstrate our sacrifice of the heart at the holy alter of intellect.

Recess has to go so that the testing industry can make more money printing duplicate unnecessary tests and congressman can go home to their districts and speak about increasing standards in education.

I am passionate about this because 30 years ago I went to public school and I am dyslexic. While normal grade school children need a break, learning disabled students need it even more. I did not learn to read till 4th grade and I can tell you that with out regular recess breaks in my schedule I would not have be here today. I would have cracked into a million pieces under the strain.

Children need adults, but they also deserve a break from us just like we do from them.

Eric Wolf M.S. Ed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Call of a different sort of reform in America’s schools.

I submitted this as a commentary for NPR all things considered – well not this piece – well it was nice of them to consider it. Eric

We need to pull back on testing our students and spend more time on the arts, with a focus on real world communication skills, creative problem solving and people management that businesses will need to have if America is to be successful it the 21st century economy.

The ability to spell or add, are no longer relevant to the success of anyone in a world that includes word processors and spreadsheet programs on every computer. The ability to recall a certain historic date or scientific fact will not decide the fate of any American with Wikipedia one click away. Even the valued alphabetizing skills developed in grade schools across the country, once used in leafing through the Yellow Pages by every American is now obsolete due to google.

There are many skills that are still relevant – skills that become even more important in an economy where any job is just one click away from being outsourced to Indonesia. The capacity of students to: manage people, be creative in the face of conflict or problems, a willingness to set goals and follow them, to speak with truth and passion to an audience of any size and a stubborn willingness to keep trying will lead directly to success in the next generation.

There has long been a growing disconnect between the creative skills used in the arts and business to succeed and the skills that America’s schools teach. It’s time for schools to be based on a 21st century model where creativity, originality, passion and perseverance are the coin of the realm.

One of the key skills that could be developed further in American schools is the use of storytelling. Not the sort of storytelling of sweet little old lady at a library reading a book, a worthy vocation. But the American use of storytelling in every aspect of our lives from successful interviews, to sales, in media and in just normal everyday talk. I have had the pleasure of visiting hundreds of schools around the country as a professional storyteller and I am sorry to report that only one school had any experience with public speaking prior to my arrival. The ability to speak without notes, to as Mark Twain once said – “extemporize” or to just feel comfortable answering question in public, are essential skills to any student’s long term success in life.

It’s time for us to rethink what it means to be in school. When creativity and perseverance is our guiding light the world opens it’s doors to meet us.

Eric Wolf has a M.S. in Education and is the Host and producer of the Art of Storytelling with Children Podcast with over 80+ hour long interviews on how to use storytelling in just about every aspect of school and life.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

6) Emotional Learning is more important then intellectual learning.

This post is part of series on 7 Principles every parent should know about dyslexic children.

In the modern creative economy the strongest most hirable asset is creativity and emotional objectivity. When we are able to create content based on demand, when we are able to serve the needs of the market place through our inherit creative gifts - we will never be short for happiness, success, work or money.

When we are placed in subservient rule to our natural destiny by the forceful removal of our own confidence and moral compass. When we are slighted for our unique creativity and natural abilities we give up our own forward motion and attach ourselves to the success of another. We become drones or factory workers, we wait for the boss to tell us what to do.

Students who are scared from a lifetime of fighting their way through a hierarchy of learning goals are no longer nimble and quick. In modern schools; creativity is sacrificed on the alter of accountability, student management and scheduled educational goals. Students who graduate from most learning institutions today are able to follow instructions, but are lacking in creativity and problem solving. Many modern high-school graduates have not matriculated into an identity of adulthood they have failed to take on the mantle of responsibility that is missing in so much of modern life.

In the late 19th century schools where an important part of our nations successful transition into the industrial revolution. But the current creative economy rewards people based on their unique ability to fulfill the needs of the marketplace. In the modern economy, intellectual ability has become cheap and plentiful and creative ability has become sought after and rare. If I want facts I can go to my computer and find them. If I want good writing or decent editing I have to pay through the nose.

But my spell checker is free – my computer comes with a keyboard. The role of stenographer has been replaced at every modern office. Typists are no longer needed, but good managers are hard to find.

That leads us to the most important reality of hiring new workers in today’s cooperate and business world. Maturity is rare - there are many grownups, but few adults in today’s economy. Creativity though associated with children and teenagers when expressed by a mature adult becomes passion and expertise.

The emotion ability to make decisions, work with people, compromise and push through, the moral certitude and mature surety of grown adult has become rare in post industrial society. In combination with the ability to be creative it is the only thing that can lead to a wild and successful like. So far I have seen few schools that can teach that.

This post is from the Dyslexic Storytellers Blog feel free to check out Eric Wolf's writings on being dyslexic.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Top 10 Storytelling Blogs of 2009

I rarely write articles for this bog – but I started thinking about it and I thought as way of thanks I would write a short article giving thanks to all those bloggers who have been so supportive of my podcast over the years. Keeping in mind that many of these people have become my friends, I apologize to any worthy storytelling blogger who feels excluded form this list.


If you reading this post – I’m sure you are reading this post on my blog so I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of the value of this blog on the web. I have tried to bring to this podcast every storyteller of every merit in the international storytelling movement. I only have a few hundred to go – so please spread the word as to the value of this resource.


Tim Ernetta has a fabulous blog called “Breaking the Eggs: Performance storytelling in the 21st Century”. Tim planned years in advance for this blog by reserving the word storytelling in the blogspot universe – thank goodness he had the foresight. Instead of another dry examination of movies, theater or television, we get this entertaining look at American storytelling. He has one of the most refreshing views of what it means to be a modern storyteller. His examination of the boundaries of storytelling and his willingness to leave no stone unturned in his examination of what it means to be a storyteller, professional or other wise, makes this blog required reading for anyone who is serious about storytelling in the United States.


A Ning is a new word like Google, Ebay or Facebook – Nings are dedicated online communities with a common philosophical focus. The professional storytelling Ning founded by Dianne de Las Casus includes not just one blog, but hundreds of storytellers blogs all combined into one overwhelming RSS feed. Give yourself the gift of examining what it means to take your storytelling to the next professional level.


K. Sean Buvala has a courageous picture blog of his own professional storytelling career recorded over the period of a year with hundreds of pictures. Honest and raw, it is a must read for any inspiring performer who wishes or dreams of making a living from their art form. He has several other online storytelling projects and each is worthy of its own place of honor – so be sure to explore the links on this blog page to find out more about what he has created online.


Limor’s Storytelling Agora is a valuable addition to the international view of storytelling in the 21sot century. Sometimes Limor just speaks about her basic experience as a storyteller – like many other storytelling blogs. Then suddenly she will launch into an examination of storytelling itself, why we do it, how we do it or just what it means to be a storyteller in the 21st century.


This is Priscilla Howe’s professional storytelling blog. She is one of the busiest storytellers that I know and you can pick up a lot of tricks of the trade if you pay attention to the space between the words in her blog. She is a professional and her blog demonstrates it with over a thousand professional gigs on her resume. This is a blog to follow for other professional storytellers.


Rachel Hedman’s blog, Storytelling Adventures, has been a long term project for her. She posts on a regular basis on the storytelling art form, issues relating to performing in various venues and the development of various gigs. Rachel currently has been developing a new project online, so be sure to check that out through the links. I am sure it will be just as in depth, interesting, detailed and good for the soul as this blog.


Dianne de Las Casus has a professional blogging presence – she writes books and a regular lengthy newsletter, maintains a healthy performance schedule and answers all emails. I don’t know how she does it all. Actually I do – because she talks about it at length on her blog.


My personal blog – where I reach out to parents of dyslexic children - not really a storytelling blog – but a great example of how to create content for a specific audience to whom you wish to tell stories. If you are a regular follower of this blog, you will understand my passionate interest in the way Americans view school and learning disabilities.


Although this does not appear to be a permanent addition to the storytelling blogsphere, it looks to be of such originality and vision that I had to slip it into this lineup of storytelling blogs. These three tellers are reaching for the sky while mere mortals seek the old places of last resort.

This is a repeat of a post - blogged at

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Well - Some one is reading on...

I still get fairly heavy traffic on this blog despite the lack of activity - but recently I was recognized for being among the top 50 blogs on dyslexia - which I find amusing being that I am not satisfied that dyslexia exists....

If you are seeking a more traditional approach to dyslexia I would search below....
Learning Disabilities Blogs
From Guide to Online Schools

All the best

Eric Wolf

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Listen to the youth they know the way...

Storycorp jst collected an excellent interview in CA.

Taken a listen and really breings home the idea that we are not just talking in the abstract here - dyslexic students have faces.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Quagmire of Opinion vs Fact in Dyslexia

Recently a very Nice parent commented on my blog. Check out the comments on previous two post.
In there comments and questions they suggested that the rights of dyslexic students are a matter of opinion not law. The key idea hear for me is that Learning disabilties are not opinion or political hairs to be split. Learning diabilties can be proven - tested and demonstrated in written and verbel tests consitently over and over again.

I give you the definition of dyslexia by

Definition of Dyslexia

Dyslexia: A specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain's processing of graphic symbols. Dyslexia is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material.

Two commonly held beliefs about dyslexia are that children with it are prone to seeing letters or words backward, and that the problem is linked to intelligence. Both beliefs are incorrect. The problem is a linguistic one, not a visual one, in dyslexia. And dyslexia in no way stems from any lack of intelligence. People with severe dyslexia can be brilliant.

The effects of dyslexia, in fact, vary from person to person. The only shared trait among people with dyslexia is that they read at levels significantly lower than typical for people of their age. Dyslexia is different from reading retardation which may reflect mental retardation or cultural deprivation.

The treatment of dyslexia should be directed to the specific learning problems the person has. The usual course is to modify teaching methods and the educational environment to meet the specific needs of the individual with dyslexia.

The prognosis (outlook) for people with dyslexia is mixed. The disability affects such a wide range of people, producing different symptoms and varying degrees of severity, that predictions are hard to make. The prognosis is generally good, however, for individuals whose dyslexia is identified early, who have supportive family and friends and a strong self-image, and who are involved in a proper treatment program.

Back to my words....

In the beginning dyslexia was discovered in very smart people. Naturally it was assumed that dyslexia and many other learning disabilities were just effecting smart people. But over time it was discovered that dyslexia can be tested and found in 20% of the population regardless of I.Q. While it is true that many dyslexic or LDS people are gifted at speaking or talking to compensate for their disability - These gifts ARE NOT gurantted they are earned through the hard work that individual puts into compensating for the fact they can't read and every one else can.

It is tempting to think that these idea are my opinion or that they are just a matter of one persons thoughts vs some one else's thoughts. But they also are a matter of legal recourse to thousands of families around the country when the school refuses to recognize their child's Learning Disabilty. Dyslexia is as real as blindness just a lot harder to see. (pun intentional)