When I was a kid I had terrible working memory. Little things were hard to remember. I would even forget simple instructions. One day, my mother asked me to call my sisters for dinner. Eager to be a good boy, I smiled and ran upstairs to get them. My mom tells how she heard me race up the steps, begin to slow down, and then come to a stop. At the top of the steps I paused and yelled, “Elza! Glory! Time for bed!”
I’m sure my poor working memory made for many cute stories. Growing up with poor working memory as part of my dyslexia, however, was not fun. I often felt like a failure. I felt like I was never good enough. I felt like everyone was smarter than me and I wasn’t really good at anything.
I couldn’t remember basic facts, certain names of places or things, complicated concepts. Reading was my worst nightmare. I would focus so hard just to read the words on a page properly, that I never knew what I was reading. As I would stumble through a line of text I would often repeat lines and only realize half way through (if at all) that I was repeating the line I had just finished. I remember reading out loud at Sunday School and the teacher would stop me again and again because I was reading the same line twice. I dreaded it being my turn to read. It was another chance to come face to face with my failure at something that everyone else seemed to get.
Even sports were not safe from feeling like a failure. While I was a decent athlete, I remember at my middle school soccer club I struggled to understand my coaches verbal instructions. I needed to picture what he was asking us to do but I would get lost in the sea of words. That last phrase – lost in the sea of words – was somewhat of a life theme for me.
I bring up these things because I recently read a great book called Square Peg by Todd Rose who is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I strongly recommend it for educators at all levels. He also has a great Tedx talk where he discusses the myth of the average student. He talks about how the public school system really only serves about 20% of schoolchildren.
Rose’s sharing of his struggles from being a dyslexic high school dropout to a Harvard professor have helped me own my own story. For as long as I can remember I’ve been trying to be average and normal. As a kid, I just wanted to read and speak like other people. Little did I know there is no such thing as average and I was a part of a school system that didn’t recognize my differences as a dyslexic. I’m so thankful for the many people in my life who have shown me patience and grace as I’ve grown – and continue to grow – to use my gifts as a dyslexic to serve in the education of others.
I’m Ozzie Crocco and I’m a square peg.