In my life as an educator, I have had, under my care 2 dyslexic boys. One in the past. The other one in this present time.
The one in the past let’s call him S.L. I got him from the time he was 10, 11, and 12 years old back in the school I was teaching years ago. If my calculations are right, he should be 17 years old this year. At 12, he couldn’t read. He couldn’t even spell simple words properly. He could not do maths work in class. Basically academically, he is a no-go.
He got an acute sense of logic. There were many instances where he pointed out simple things which didn’t even cross the minds of straight A students. Once, after a class excursion, when all the kids rushed off to the entrance of the bus and started to push and shove their way up, he yelled at them’
“Hoy ! U all think you get in bus faster like that ah? Line up properly lah then everyone go up faster liddat!!” In his ‘Ah Pek English’, a term which he himself coined ( ‘eh cher, i speak englrish like ah pek hor… sorry lah cher my fater mater dunno speak englrish one. I go school then I learn. So sound like Ah Pek lor’ — cher is of course, our lingo, the short for ‘Teacher’ ).
And some other simple things which I myself didn’t think about, like the proper way of stacking books so it won’t drop or rearranging the classroom furnitures to create more space. Or the best way to shoot baskets during PE lessons. And he can dance ! Boy can he dance. During the period where Para-Para dance was a hit with teenagers, he was my John Travolta. That year I was given the task of organising the Children’s Day concert and guess who was my choreographer ? 😛
One day, when he was 12, the year he should take his primary school leaving examination, I asked him, ‘ S.L, what do you want to be when you grow up?‘ With so much pride, he told me, with a huge grin on his face’ You know ah cher, later I grow up I want to be Dulian King ! I know where to get suppelierr for Dulian. XO Dulian ok. Later you buy Dulian from me I sure give you discount one..! Then hor, my free time I dance lor. Go CC ( community centre ) there and teach dancing-dancing. You want to learn also can. Now you teach me later I teach you lar! ‘ Obviously, this conversation remained etched in my mind. Probably forever. I have lost touch with him since I moved out of the country. My only hope is that one day I would buy durian from him, even if I myself do not eat durians.
The second one, A.H , the one I am currently homeschooling is about 1o years old. He is still struggling with Peter and Jane books and maths sums take him forever to do.
His art and paintings speak volume. My little Picasso I called him and he grinned a thousand smiles. And he is also very good at gardening too! So like any teacher would, I asked him, ‘ A.H, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ and without thinking twice, he said ‘ Oooh nanti besar kita nak jadi penggali kubur !’
I was startled of course. Never in my years of teaching I got a penggali kubur as a desired ambition. I asked him why and in a matter of fact manner, he said ‘ Kesian kan orang yang dah mati… kalau kita jadi penggali kubur, kita boleh baca-baca doa lepas tu tanam dia… kerja senang jer..’
When I told his mother, she told me he has been having that ambition since he was younger because he saw his grandmother being buried.From that day on, he resolved to be a penggali kubur. He said he felt pity for the dead and wants to be the person to read prayers for them at their graves, since he knows he is not actually a pro at reading and writing or counting for that matter. And he told me one thing I can never forget ‘ Kawan-kawan kita satu pun tak mau jadi penggali kubur. Nanti orang tua semua mati siapa nak tanam? ‘
Yesterday I got a call from another parent, whose child is a friend of the penggali-kubur wannabe. Her child is also dyslexic and certified low IQ and carry around with him the OKU ( orang kurang upaya ) green card issued by the Kementerian Kesihatan. She is a high flying career mother. She called, asking if she can learn how to home school a child from me as she has decided to fore go her career, to be a SAHM and be with her special son. Her son told her since he can’t read and write, he wants to be a chef. And she wants to help him realise his dream. After all, she said, HE gave her this son and he is smart in his own ways, although that way is not the academic way.
I told her she’s doing something beautiful.
Really… these kids have beautiful minds, which many of my straight A students in the past never quite come close to. In fact, sometimes I feel and observed that they are just functioning information/fact machines which vomit textbook contents all out during examinations. And for that, society call them ‘smart‘.