Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guest Post - Dyslexic Professor Duane Smith

This Reader wrote this lovely comment on the last post on the Blog - so with his permission I give you his story as a post so you don't miss it.

After failing the first grade, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. I failed English in the 10th grade, and algebra a total of five times. By the grace of God, I graduated high school with a 1.9 G.P.A on probation for bad behavior. Following high school, I failed out of three different community colleges. The first class I failed was public speaking. After my third attempt at college, in as many years, I became a car salesman. Selling cars was one of the best learning experiences of my life, however, at the age of 21, I did not posses the discipline to work sixty-plus hours a week for commission. So I quit. Needing to do something, I applied for the Los Angeles Police Department, only to fail the written exam. My father was an LAPD sergeant. A friend of my father had administered and graded the test. Severely humbled and having no other options, I decided to try college a fourth time.

I figured if I was going to be serious about school, I should start by retaking the courses I had failed. During the summer of 1991, I enrolled in a public speaking course at Los Angeles Valley College with Professor Betty Ballew. Professor Ballew not only inspired me to take the class seriously but encouraged me to join the LAVC public speaking team. To this day, I don't know why I agreed to do something extracurricular that was academic...but I did! I joined the LAVC public speaking team, and my life was changed forever. Professor Ballew inspired me to celebrate my strengths, and address my challenges.

I am now a tenured professor of speech at Los Angeles Valley College, where I serve as the Director of the forensics (public speaking team). I am now privileged to regularly participate with and foster countless success stories as I serve the very program that changed my life. On April 15-19th, 2008 the LAVC speech team competed against 74 other community colleges and over 450 of our nation's best speakers and won the Phi Rho Pi national public speaking championship tournament held in St. Charles, Illinois. However, the highlight of the year was a very special student named Marcus Hill. Marcus, a former stutterer, became the most successful competitive speaker in California community college history, as well as, the overall top speaker in the country while at nationals in Illinois. Like my Professor Betty Ballew, I am truly blessed with the privilege of helping students discover their individual strengths while actively negotiating their challenges.

In 1991, a college professor asked me if I was "retarded?". That same year Professor Ballew told me that I had "presence," and asked me to join the speech team. Professor Ballew focused on my strengths, and helped me to acknowledge and confront my challenges.

For several years I have contemplated reaching out to the dyslexic community to share my experiences. If I could encourage others to discover the empowerment that can be discovered by identifying and exploiting one's individual gifts; while at the same time motivating people to address their personal challenges, I would honor the opportunity.

Please forgive any spelling mistakes :)


Duane Smith
(Taken with Permission from...)

Dear Reader

If you are dyslexic and have a story to tell you are welcome to share it here... post you potential post below and Iw ill will consider it in due time...

Eric Wolf


Alogorithm Circle ,Ugandan charpter said...

Hi I'm telling my 12 year old brother's dyslexia story in Uganda.Dyslexia is a new concept to Uganda , knowledge about it is 0.Dyslexia in Uganda is my story

Alogorithm Circle ,Ugandan charpter said...

My first blog ever.I'm writing this article on behalf of my little brother Billy who turns 12 this year.My brother was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2008.Well Billy is the last born in my family and dyslexia was a whole new thing for us and in Uganda.In nursery school Billy struggled with learning how to read and write plus with speech but we all thought it was a phase.Then time came for primary school,Billy failed every interview at the popular private schools in Uganda.This was devastating for my family.Finally a local school took him out of pity.At the school,Billy failed every subject.At the end of the end of the year Billy was terminated because he grades were too low.One teacher said to my mum "your son is too stupid,we can't help you".Billy moved to another new small private school where he had to repeat his first year of primary school and the teachers were frustrated by him.Billy began to hate school and withdraw.Even his school friends began to realize he was different and began to tease him because of his problem .Once he came home and told me that he's friends said he was stupid.He went to ask me "what does stupid mean?".I couldn't answer.Well at the end of that school year termination again.So later on my family learnt about dyslexia.Billy was tested and found to have severe dyslexia.In Uganda,dyslexia doesn't exists in our education system.My parents and I began looking for the necessary help and ended with nothing.The schools with the necessary facilities were way too expensive for my family.Those schools pay 10000 US dollars a year .So my family has opted for home school which is very tricky.We take turns.Oh well the story is much longer than this.I'll keep u posted on Billy.Feel free to comment and give advice :).

nisha said...

I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing us a great information that is actually helpful. Good day!

Unknown said...

Hi there. I am not dyslexic but I wanted to share my thoughts with you. I taught for seven years at a community college and experimented heavily with varied approaches to learning. I moved all my lectures out of the classroom experience, for example, and shared them with student in podcast AND PDF (print) form. For students, classroom time was spent discussing, analyzing, and critiquing, rather than listening to someone speak.

Interestingly, when my students were given the "option" with to listen to or read their lectures, 30% of the did BOTH at the same time, only 15% chose to listen, 40% read and 15% toggled between reading and listening.

Higher education has been challenged to increase the percentage of degree attainment from 40% to 55% of 25-34 year olds. That's an enormous challenge.

My hypothesis is that college learning environments need to be more inclusive to accommodate the wide variety in learning preferences (which is intended to include language challenges like dyslexia, as well as ESL students, international students, etc.).

I'm feeling like I made an important connection here, as you are a dyslexic community college professor.

Maybe we can stay in touch. You can find me on my blog at or on Twitter at brocansky.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock