When I was 7, my mother asked if I wanted to change school. I was at a public school and was struggling with my reading and writing. It was suggested I was dyslexic but there was little extra time to give me at my current school to help me improve. My mother had found a place for me at a private school, where the money spent would go towards a smaller class size with (in theory) more time for the individual student and extra, private tutoring after school. I was excited about the idea. I loved change. So, after the summer break I started at a new school. So far, so good. I made instant friends, being chatty and outgoing and even felt comfortable (shamefully) ignoring the less popular girls to hang with the ‘cool kids’ – I’d never been a cool kid before myself!
However, shortly after starting at the new school, there was a school party. I went. I hung out with the cool girls and we shared dumb stories about boys. The following Monday I walked into class with confidence and joy… but things had changed.
As an adult I can try and analyse what had happened. Had the cool girls become jealous of my elaborate stories, or resented me for clearly lying, or were they simply looking for a new girl to pick on, bored by the old selection?
I don’t have the answers. I once tried getting it from one of the bullies as an adult, but she denied it had ever happened though it hadn’t stopped until I left school altogether.
I’m now an introvert. I don’t want to be the centre of attention and would prefer staying at home with a book, to going to a party. I’m not outgoing nor sociable. I’m happy with who I am (most of the time) but there are consequences to being a quiet person both socially, romantically and career wise.
I’m still dyslexic, of course, but I can mostly get by without anyone realising (thank goodness for spell check and autocorrect). In my spare time I write (unpublished) books and blogs and I love reading too, so, naturally, most people are surprised when I tell them I’m dyslexic.
Then, the other day I was talking to my mum about my outgoing, chatty 7-year-old niece who may need to move school soon due to moving house. My mum was worried. What if she faces the same problems as me, being removed from her life-long friends? Why would she? I asked. She’s confident and happy, I argued. So were you when you were that age, before the school change, my mother reminded me.
I was stunned. I’m 35 and I’d forgotten this fact about myself as I identify so strongly with being an introvert. I desperately wanted to change as a teen and in my 20s but failed. Clearly I’d always been a person in need of peace and quiet… but apparently not.
I was left wondering – if I could get a do-over and not get the intense help I did as a child for my dyslexia, risking being very badly dyslexic today, but had instead grown up among friends, and stayed confident and happy, like my older, very sociable, popular and dyslexic brother, who avoids emails, still embarrassed he might make mistakes, would I make a different choice…?
After all, it wasn’t my dyslexia that ruined my confidence but my peers and teachers.
I think I know the answer. It was difficult for me to admit.
What would you choose if it was you?
By Terese Smith (guest blogger)