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Personal Stories

Learn to be a Learner

By: Thomas Strewler
Thomas Strewler

Learning to be a learner; learning what was missing; learning that learning builds through steps; and learning that we learn all the time were important for me. Learning to be a learner was the key ideal that guided me through many years of struggle with my learning disability.

I was first diagnosed as having dyslexia when I was in the first grade. But back in the early 1960's there were no specific services for children with learning disabilities. My parents tried many different programs and tutors over the years. None of these seemed to really help. My poor self-esteem, self doubt, frustration and confusion continued to mount.

It was not until high school that I finally got help that really made a difference. Through two special teachers, my parents, my sister who encouraged me to challenge myself, and one very special high schoolteacher, I began to learn to be a learner.

Learning skills that had been missing, things like phonics, spelling, written language, and reading, began to develop. Phonics proved to be the key. Phonics led to greater understanding of words, greater vocabulary, greater reading, writing, and spelling. I learned that what has been learned could be communicated in a variety of ways when a high school teacher allowed an additional oral response to an essay to clarify its meaning. I learned about myself as a learner and began to work within my strengths and weaknesses. Instead of being discouraged and unhappy, I was finding encouragement and confidence in the things being accomplished. I learned that you need to: (1) start to set small goals that lead to larger goals; (2) start to learn about your own disability; and (3) to speak publicly to others about your disability. This inspired and provided me determination to continue the struggle. Realize you can learn, and you can have a voice in your own learning and life.

When an academic advisor in college told me I was not college material, anger added to the determination to be successful in college. Through experiences like being a writing tutor for peers, and realizing a talent, I chose education as my major.

Once involved in education, learning to learn to be a learner was a large part of my life. I was learning about how everyone learns and placing myself as a learner in that knowledge. Learning to be a teacher taught more about being a learner. Learning became enjoyable. Learning to be a learner was part of my study methods too. I had to learn and relearn my study methods. Thank goodness for the high school teacher who demanded note taking as apart of his course, along with memorization, reading and interpretation of literature, and writing of essays. To study meant taking notes in class and rewriting class notes later. Studying meant reading and highlighting and rereading and re-highlighting for more specific details and then taking more notes about the reading. I used numerous other devices to help me with memorization: lists, songs, acronyms, etc. Learning to be a learner, learning to study, and learning to connect things already learned became very important. I was determined, dedicated, singled minded, and committed to meeting all goals. My long-term goals were to finish a baccalaureate degree in elementary education, to complete a Masters degree in special education, and to teach learning disabled children. Short-term goals still were to complete the next assignment, test, class, semester, or year.

I have now been teaching school for twenty-three years. I no longer work as special education teacher, but I work with children with learning disabilities everyday. I think learning to be a learner has helped me, and can help you too. Learning is a life long activity. Learn to be a Learner.

Fifth Grade Teacher - LD OnLine exclusive