When I was still a languages student at university from 2014-2018, I posted very actively to this blog. I took you through many of the frustrating yet amusing dyspraxidents that occurred during my time at university and on my Year Abroad, and aimed to prove what is possible in spite of a dyspraxia diagnosis. During this year, I survived and thrived as a language assistant, a volunteer teacher with refugees, a trilingual administrative assistant and an au-pair with French children. My Erasmus-funded year abroad feels far ago now. When I started writing this in the midst of a suspended teacher training placement and Brexit on the horizon, my distant memories of setting off security alarms in Paris and colliding with lampposts in Germany a few years earlier felt almost like a luxury. Following my year abroad, I successfully completed my undergraduate degree and a Master’s. I then went on to train to be a languages teacher, and regret not having returned to the blog to share the ups and downs with you all.
When I was still a languages student, I didn’t think or know that the path awaiting me was that of a teacher. In fact, it’s fair to say that I never wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a journalist, an interior designer, a translator. But never a teacher. Partly because it was a profession I didn’t think I had the “right” character for. And indeed, earlier this year, when I was told that I might consider “changing my personality” (reinforced after being told to “leave my personality outside the door” in the corporate office I worked at in Paris in 2017), this doubt somewhat solidified the following itching thought: What if I am too dyspraxic to be a teacher? What if I just can’t do it?
Back in June, I took part in some research into student teachers’ perceptions of “success” in schools, reflecting on what “success” meant to me as a neurodivergent trainee teacher. It feels more necessary than ever to continue sharing my journey from a student to now teacher – and a lover of languages and the arts, despite the odds. Late diagnosis remains an issue, with many students slipping through the net. Language-learning for dyspraxics has yet to be explored in depth by previous writers and not much research has been conducted into the language-processing of people with Specific Learning Difficulties. Dyspraxia tends to be associated with “problems of perception, language and thought” (“speech apraxia” or “articulatory dyspraxia” can affect how people express themselves verbally and their pronunciation of words). But this doesn’t have to mean that dyspraxic people are automatically less able in language-learning – an argument I will come back to in future posts.
I’m very grateful to the people closest to me who encouraged me to start writing this blog again. The world has never been such a complex place, and having once been where my students are today – albeit in a less complex world context – I hope I can provide some encouragement. I continue to speak to fellow dyspraxics who might be put off languages in light of their reputation as “too difficult” for those with “language problems”. But I also address those who might never have heard of, or do not understand, dyspraxia and its implications for the mind and body, and for learning and teaching. In this way, I’m addressing my past teachers and lecturers, my current colleagues in teaching, and my family and friends. Above all, I write for myself – I might not be a student anymore, but I seek to continue learning about how dyspraxia affects my life and that of my students. I hope to be able to offer various perspectives from a learner and a teacher.
In this series of blog posts, I’ll continue to bring you reflections on my experiences as a young person / adult / student / teacher. This time, I’ll intersperse my reflections with humorous stories, poems, my own art and also research about dyspraxia. As I venture into a baptism of fire, learning how to be a new teacher in a London comprehensive in the middle of a pandemic, I aim to also provide some hope to those in similar situations and to improve understanding about what dyspraxia means for learning and teaching.
I hope you’ll join me again on my journey!