Dyslexic English Teacher Creates online ESL business

by Ben Worthington
(Hong Kong)

Dyslexics are the lucky ones!

Dyslexics will think of concepts differently, probably see the entire machinery of the problem, think and see in images rather. In a society where routine tasks are swiftly being replaced by robots and AI, creative skills have never been more valued, and dyslexics often have an abundance of creativity!

My story is about playing to your strong points and sorting out your so called “deficits” to a point where you overcompensate and they become real character defining strengths.

You see, when I was around 11 my mum suspected I had a learning difficulty and went to get me tested, and I was told I had dyslexia. However, my initial strategy to deal with the consequences weren’t exactly smart.

Refused special needs classes

I refused to go to “special needs” classes because of the stigma attached. Unfortunately every Friday the teacher held a spelling test, In the first one I got 0/10 and for a few weeks after whenever it was test time I faked a migraine. Not smart.

Eventually my mum found out and we started preparing for the spelling tests relentlessly. We used pictures, drawings, and even traced words using my finger on a paper. This worked well and through sweat, grit and determination I was regularly scoring above 7/10. Happy days.

Drawing History notes instead of writing

Then during high school, in order to do well I realised I had to prepare differently from the other students. This meant drawing out the class notes into mind maps, with colours, arrows, pictures and humour -to make it memorable. This worked well but a lot of colleagues thought I was bananas.

Later I started college and played to my strengths again by just taking art subjects like design, fine arts etc. This worked well, but now my challenge was organising my work, I was always up in the night finishing work, or even just straight up missing deadlines. Terrible. This time however, I didn’t really develop any strategies, I was adolescent, independant and just worked through it and almost reached mediocrity.

I scraped through with semmi acceptable grades and managed to wing a spot in university. In the UK we have a system called “clearing” were students and universities allocate themselves to each other. On the last days of this clearing period and a good dollop of persuasion I managed to land myself in university.

Accepting my “disability” opened the door for help.

After getting disappointing grades from college I got help in the form of flexibility regarding deadlines, extra exam time and spelling allowances on the papers and this made a massive difference. I also continued with mind maps, pictures and colours for making notes.

Learning a foreign language.

For my final year I went to Spain, terrified but determined to learn Spanish. Knowing my weaknesses were in reading and writing I focussed almost entirely on listening and speaking. By getting these facets under control it definitely made the reading and writing easier.

The Spanish education system also focuses a lot on memorisation, which was a new challenge for me. I had so much to memorize I would spend hours making beautiful mind maps about logistics, financial systems, and even Spanish trade law. I had so much to remember and the library was just killing me so I ended up memorising the mindmaps while doing keep ups with a football.

Timidly teaching English in Spain

After graduating with an ok grade I decided to live in Spain for a few years and improve my Spanish. In Valencia there was a very strong demand for English teachers and after a few nerve racking classes I realised I simply loved it. EXPLAIN MORE


However, there were a few challenges such as having such dire spelling skills. Fortunately though I changed this into my advantage, you see I knew my spelling wasn’t perfect so I deliberately did two things every class to compensate.

I always taught stood up, I never sat down.
This kept the students engaged because I was moving, and pushing the class towards being more interactive, and dynamic (avoiding pencil and)
I used a lot of flash cards while standing up - avoiding the typical pencil and paper classroom
I over prepared for the class - each class had a plan, and tricky spellings were foreseen and dealt with beforehand.
I had my computer with me to check a spelling before dictating it to the class.
I pushed writing exercises to do as homework, and the corrections I would do at home.

Teaching with technology
The writing corrections were done via Youtube, the students would email me their work and I would open screen capture software and go through correcting all the grammar and using the computer for the spelling.

My students really appreciated this and I could motivate them via video rather just writing “Good work Pablo!”.

My love of teaching and preference for technology lead me to create my business where I sell online courses for passing IELTS: http://www.ieltspodcast.com

Entering the world of Entrepreneurship really whipped me into shape regarding getting a control of my situation.

Initially each day was a massive challenge, I had so much to do and needed to focus relentlessly in order to get started.

The tools I use nowadays really help me to become laser focussed and hyper organised.

My current favourites are:

Workflowy.com - this is an awesome tool for making and organising lists. Making lists is one of my biggest strengths nowadays. At college I couldn’t organise a single thing, nowadays I’m writing out list after lists for everything, from shopping to bucket lists!
Simplenote.com - I use this for controlling those lovely thoughts that just “pop” into your mind while you are working. It’s always great for writing down your goals, this is another useful tool for organisation too.
.Brain.fm - this is a fantastic tool to boost your meditation, (if you aren’t meditating I strongly recommend you start, this is the most powerful tool I’ve found for focus).

Dean Jackson’s 15 minute Focus Finder technique. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5onClAZJgdY

Youtube: Sounds of rain - I listen to this with headphones while working. It blocks outs people’s conversations, and lets me get into the zone.

My message

Throughout my story hopefully you have seen a recurring theme of turning weaknesses into strengths. I think this is most evident with my path to business owner. I am now extremely well organised and infinitely more productive than I was a few years ago. I believe when you start on the path of remedying a problem, if you keep on this path eventually you surpass your initial goal and it becomes a strength.

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