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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Ow! (01/07/10)

TITLE: Dyslexia and Bruises
By Rachel Phelps


There should be a “The World Is Out To Get Me” day at work. Similar to a sick day, but more serious. If such a day existed, I certainly would have called in. Aside from the usual “I don’t want to get up this morning” syndrome, I had managed to rip a pair of hose, burn my tongue on the coffee I unwisely stopped to purchase on the way to work, and step off my heel walking up the steps, twisting my ankle and settling my sour opinion of the day. Add to that my pending rent payment coming out of an anemic paycheck and the ever-present family tensions and I was on the verge of telling my boss I felt a fever coming on. Too bad my ever-dwindling paycheck forced me to stay put. Hourly wage makes fools of us all.

“Well, Zach, how’s it going?” I asked brightly, setting my kit down on the table. He was my fourth hour of one-on-one tutoring for the day, and only the ten-minute break each hour was keeping me sane by this point.

Zach shrugged, “Okay, I guess.”

I sighed. Working one-on-one with dyslexic children can be emotionally and mentally exhausting – particularly when the learning disability has spawned emotional problems. My first three hours had been with kids whose main goal was to show their parents just how much trouble they could be here. Zach generally didn’t act up unless his morning at school had gone bad.

“Just okay?” I probed, mostly because I cared… partly because I needed to know where I stood on the I’m-going-to-pitch-a-tantrum meter.

“Some kid pushed me down while we were running laps in PE,” Zach muttered, pushing up his left sleeve to reveal a rather nasty bruise on his forearm. “I landed on my arm.”

I clucked sympathetically, setting out the materials for the first activity. “That looks like it hurt.”

Zach nodded, poking at it. “Ow! It hurts when I do that.”

“Don’t poke it and it won’t hurt as much,” I advised, nudging the paper toward him. “We’re going to start with reading some words.”

The program centers on providing physical memory cues for the mental connection between a printed letter and the sound that letter makes. I marked the first word for him and leaned back so he wouldn’t feel crowded, wincing as my ankle came in contact with the chair leg.

“Duh-aw-uuuuuhh-buh-t,” Zach sounded out, looking up for approval.

I had to check the paper to make sure we were still looking at the same word. Doubt. Yep. “Excellent job figuring out those letters. Now, let’s check a couple things. Do you see any letters that could be working together?”

Zach furrowed his brow. “The b and the t ?”

“Good thinking, but not what we need.”

Zach returned his attention to the word, tapping his right pointer finger against his bruise. “I don’t –ow! - see anything.”

“Stop poking that. Now, what about our vowels? Any buddies?” My tongue was dry and achy, and I was trying hard not to think about how long I would be talking about this one word. It basically summed up my attitude toward life at the moment anyway – doubt I would survive this week.

O and u – it’s a slider!” Zach said, mimicking the sliding motion of the mouth for the sound “ou.”

“Well done, Zach!” I exclaimed, truly celebrating the independent assertion. It meant the program was starting to take root. “Just one more thing, that b is cheating. It’s not making any noise.”

Zach shook his head sagely. “Cheater.” He looked down at the word again. “Duh-ow-tuh…doubt!”

His smile almost brightened my day. I leaned forward, intent on congratulating and reinforcing the independent thinking, when my sore ankle collided with the chair leg again, much harder. I yelped and settled back in my chair, fighting a word I rarely used – definitely not in the company of children.

“Are you okay?” Zach was staring at me, concern practically oozing out of those huge baby-blues.

“Yeah,” I managed.

I gingerly reached down to feel the ankle. No swelling, but definitely sensitive. “Ouch! It feels kinda’ like your arm, I think.”

Zach nodded, looking down at his bruise as I returned my attention to my ankle. “Hey, guess what!”

“What?” I muttered, trying to sound politely interested.

“I just realized something. Ow… it’s a slider sound!” Zach exclaimed, poking his bruise for emphasis.

The light in his eyes made me forget my ankle. “Exactly right.”

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This article has been read 706 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mona Purvis01/14/10
Boy, I've had those days, too. You were able to make me feel I was there with you as you worked with the student. "OW" worked well in the piece.

Dee Yoder 01/17/10
Aww, I just LOVE to see that light in a student's eyes. I tutored a dyslexic boy once and it was the most challenging job I ever had, but what rewards! Love this teacher/student story. It is wonderful and well-written.
Rachel Rudd 01/18/10
Great story! The beginning is really strong. I like your description of this tutor's morning. :)
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/18/10
I love the "ow's" and how you slipped them comfortably into your conclusion. I was right with you in your "bad day" and how successful teaching helped some.
Yvonne Blake 01/18/10
I loved tutoring kids, one on one. There develops a bond between you. You can share the victories better. I love your dialogue! Well done!
Catrina Bradley 01/18/10
Perfectly paced and a delight to read. You might split the first paragraph into two or even three to make a quicker-feeling start and keep the reader tuned for this excellent story.
Ruth Brown01/18/10
I really liked the story. Very good use of the theme!
Colin Swann01/19/10
Must be very difficult straight teaching on a bad day - but special one-to-one tutoring, Wow! Extremely interesting and enlightening story, very well written. - Colin
Sarah Elisabeth 01/20/10
Excellently written! You described a typical "everything-goes-wrong-day" without using any of the redundant phrases.

I have nephews with dyslexia. One works really hard on his own, the other has tons of support from his dad. It's wonderful to have great tutors like you!
Carole Robishaw 01/20/10
Great job, I totally commiserated with both characters.
Carol Slider 01/20/10
That would be a very difficult job, indeed, and you describe it so vividly and naturally. "Ow!" as teaching tool... interesting. (I'd never heard of "Slider sounds," but I think I'll remember that! :) Very well done.