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  • Writer's pictureThe Dyslexia Initiative

My Pencil Is Covered in Sharp Rose Thorns

by Eric Staib

A couple weeks ago I was contacted by Chontae asking if I would be sooooo kind as to submit an article and picture to 'The Dyslexia Initiative'. At first I was like "wow, thank you for thinking of me" and without hesitation, I replied "YES, I would love to!" As I hit the return send, My chest seized up mind yelling "wwwwaaaiiiittttt, what are you doing, we avoid writing at all opportunities!" I have just thrown myself back into those dreadful K-12/college days of excruciating torture. For me, school days were fun and yet at times full blown anxiety stress. Will today's class involve reading out loud? Will I be called up to the chalkboard to correct a janked-up sentence; 'the eirplang was phying over the woulds?' "No correction here, all looks good Mrs. Smith'' as the class takes great delight pointing while laughing at me. In certain subject classes ENGLISH and HISTORY, I would position myself slouched down angled behind the person in front of me praying the teacher would not notice me repeating over and over in my head "oh God, please don't call on me, please don't call on me". My worst memory is when the teacher would have the entire class sit in a big open circle (aka; Round Robin) taking turns reading a paragraph.

Oh, the anxiety stress was off the charts! I would frantically count the number of peers in front of me calculating my paragraph I was to read. Oh, in my head practicing over and over never truly listening to the readers in front of me and HEAVEN FORBID you would have some crazy speed reader buzz through two paragraphs causing a complete inner meltdown, stomach ache, hot flashes, cottonmouth, tunnel vision out of body moment. Gosh, that was the worst. It's truly as if time itself stopped all the while your classmates are laughing at what it seems to them listening to a 'Peanuts' phone conversation....wa...wa.wa...waaaa.

Ok, so now we're off to the Library, oh goodie, I just love going to a place filled with thousands of books because I just LOVE TO READ. Truly, I kid you not, I would go through the same routine every time. I would pretend to look up books in the card catalog disguising my lack of spelling/reading. I then would go over to the same shelf retrieving the same picture book(s) even though I was sick of them just to blend in hiding my learning disability. Oh, while this comes to mind, I was given at a young age the label: Learning Disabled meaning unable to learn. Yea, please tell me this isn't a form of mental life scaring.So for the longest time, I grew-up with very low self-esteem and low self-worth.

Spelling test, YES! I just loved taking spelling tests. I remember taking these spelling word lists home at the beginning of the week in preparation of a big fun Friday spelling test. Ohhhhhh how my peers would speak over each other asking the teacher if they could grade my test. Let the fun begin with the person chuckling red pen checking as the teacher read down the list. It wasn't until much later in life my mother told me I didn't learn the alphabet till 3rd grade. Gosh, even to this day, I still don't know my vowel sounds. One of my many survival tactics is that for the letter sound a, I photo envision an apple, say the word apple with a long a in order to know the sound. And this is also for e,i,o,u,sometimes y. Present day, my spelling is ok. It's just over the years I have developed a way of memorizing word spellings by retrieving mind photos. Here's one for yea, I do not know the difference between the words were and where. So what I tell myself every time I come across using one of these words, I say the phrase 'where were you?' knowing that the first word has the 'h' in it. Pretty clever right! Also, I have an extremely hard time knowing what is to be capitalized so to disguise I capitalize all my handwriting like an architect. Punctuation I just figure when I pause, that must be a comma. Math, it's a love hate thing. I'm pretty much basic enter level and fractions. I actually at times have a problem with flipping single digits backwards so an E would be a 3 writing down also I’m notorious for saying groups of numbers in a backwards order. I once gave my phone number to a Creative Writing Professor for working on a collaboration. She tried calling the number numerous times then thought, "Eric mentioned he was Dyslexic, I wonder if he gave me his phone number backwards?" Sure enough, I did. Right now you're thinking "I'm pretty sure Eric is NOT an accountant or banker of some sort." You are most certainly correct!

Here's the teaser, I'm an Elementary Art Teacher that has been awarded in Washington D.C. 2006 Inspirational National Art Teacher of the Year, National Broadway Art Teacher of the Year and my life story studied in college textbooks around the U.S.

I'm going to stop here anticipating I will be able to share with you in the future my graduating H.S. with a 1.6 D- GPA to my days learning survival skills in order to graduate college.

Always be AMAZING in all you do,

Eric Staib

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