Learning Difference

October 29, 2021 1 By Allison Preble

I started interviews with students this week. The feedback I’ve gotten so far, has been super helpful. There’s been some feedback that matches the research I’ve already done, and some feedback I had not thought of before. Something I’ve noticed throughout my interviews is that teacher approachability and understanding towards their students is a huge factor in how comfortable students feel in the class. Several students felt that teachers seem approachable when they offer extra help outside of class. While talking to students, I’ve found that they categorize their learning diagnoses differently. I’ve been pondering over this categorization for the past couple days.

For most of my life, I’ve called Dyslexia a learning difference. Some people I’ve interviewed have categorized their diagnosis as a disability, however, I don’t like the term learning disability. It intimates that a student is limited in what they can achieve. For kids with learning differences, this is simply not true. None of us are incapable of learning, but we are at a disadvantage in a typical classroom. Feeling consistently behind can feel debilitating. In this respect I get where they’re coming from. For example, one student I interviewed spoke about their struggles with putting ideas onto a page. One teacher let her record videos for an assessment instead of writing a paper. This way she was able to accurately her knowledge on the subject instead of being held back by the method of teaching. This instance highlights how impactful it can be when teachers put students on a similar playing field with each other.

I’m a Junior now at Durham Academy, so this is my thirteenth year here. Looking back, I realize that the best teachers I’ve had are the ones who remain students themselves. These teachers are willing to learn about their students, adopt new strategies, and adapt their teaching as they receive new information about education. This project is another opportunity for students and teachers to collaborate and share. I’m grateful that the DA teaching community is receptive to it.