My entire life I have been a struggling speller. I have been deeply ashamed of this fact as I saw it as a stain on my personal integrity that everyone could see from 1000 miles away. I attribute this “belief” to two unrelated experiences in elementary school. The first was my grade one teacher, Miss Wilmut, who I was so scared of that I could not think and didn’t for most of grade one (when you learn how to read and spell). The second was the class list on the classroom wall in grade four where students received stickers for perfect scores on the weekly spelling test.
You guessed it..I never got a sticker. This idea crushes me even now, to consider my little grade 4 self, gazing up at the sticker chart and wanting so very badly to have a gleaming, shiny sticker next to her name. I think it was around this time, that I decided “I am a bad speller”.
I accepted this limitation, deficient as I was and moved on. I went through life with a fixed mindset fully believing: “I am a bad speller”. For the most part I was able to hide this blight from the world. As a teacher I spent a lot of time and energy over-compensating for this flaw, but for the most part, students have been helpful and understanding about my “bad spelling”.
Last year I started dabbling on Twitter and before you can say “Twitterholic” I was hooked. As a direct result of my time (well spent :)) on Twitter and I also started to blog. I began to care in a way that I had not before about communicating my thoughts and ideas to others. I became personally invested in the idea that I wanted to become a better speller, so I could Tweet, blog and be understood.
Throughout this process, I had a couple of mini epiphanies that lead to one big epiphany:
It was not that I couldn’t spell it was that I believed I could not learn to spell that was standing in my way. I did not have to be the “bad speller” forever, I could be the “improving speller”.
Some of my mini-epiphanies:
- The message I give to my students about themselves will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
- Many people in the world are not great spellers and are successful (1 area of weakness does not make all of me flawed).
- Students (and I) can continue to learn and improve regardless of the past.
- Believing in grade 4 that I was a bad speller halted all future learning around how to spell.
- Personal incentive to learn something it is crazy powerful.
- I can read a lot of books on the topic learning, but before I can relate it to myself personally I don’t really “get it” (I wonder is this same for my students?).
- I am not really that a “bad speller”, the belief I had hung onto was way worse than reality.
“They (growth mind-set teachers/learners) love to learn. And teaching is a wonderful way to learn. About people and how they tick. About what you teach. About yourself.
And about life.”