Are You Retarded? Dyslexia!

Are you retarded? Dyslexia!

I recently read an article addressing the challenges associated with dyslexia. The article inspired me to explore more thoughtfully about how my challenges associated with dyslexia have been negotiated and managed with the help of public speaking.

After failing the first grade, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. I failed English in the 10th grade, and algebra a total of five times. By the grace of God, I graduated high school with a 1.9 G.P.A on probation for bad behavior. Following high school, I failed out of three different community colleges. The first class I failed was public speaking. After my third attempt at college, in as many years, I became a car salesman. Selling cars was one of the best learning experiences of my life, however, at the age of 21, I did not posses the discipline to work sixty-plus hours a week for commission. So I quit. Needing to do something, I applied for the Los Angeles Police Department, only to fail the written exam. My father was an LAPD sergeant. A friend of my father had administered and graded the test. Severely humbled and having no other options, I decided to try college a fourth time.

I figured if I was going to be serious about school, I should start by retaking the courses I had failed. During the summer of 1991, I enrolled in a public speaking course at Los Angeles Valley College with Professor Betty Ballew. Professor Ballew not only inspired me to take the class seriously but encouraged me to join the LAVC public speaking team. To this day, I don’t know why I agreed to do something extracurricular that was academic…but I did! I joined the LAVC public speaking team, and my life was changed forever. Professor Ballew inspired me to celebrate my strengths, and address my challenges.

For two years, I competed on the LAVC speech team traveling around California and the nation winning state and national awards for public speaking. In 1993, I earned an AA in speech and won a scholarship to Northern Arizona University to compete on the NAU speech team. At NAU I enjoyed more state and national successes as well as international. After completing a BS in speech, I was offered a coaching & teaching position and an invitation into the graduate program for communication studies at California State University Los Angeles. In 1996, I was privileged to start coaching competitive speaking and teaching public speaking courses. In 1999 I received my MA in speech communication. As a dyslexic, I feel truly blessed to have experienced the life transforming gift, that is — and can be for anyone — an education fully realized by identifying and celebrating my unique strengths, while at the same time aggressively confronting my unique challenges.

I am now a tenured professor of speech at Los Angeles Valley College, where I serve as the Director of the forensics (public speaking team). I am now privileged to regularly participate with and foster countless success stories as I serve the very program that changed my life. On April 15-19th, 2008 the LAVC speech team competed against 74 other community colleges and over 450 of our nation’s best speakers and won the Phi Rho Pi national public speaking championship tournament held in St. Charles, Illinois. However, the highlight of the year was a very special student named Marcus Hill. Marcus, a former stutterer, became the most successful competitive speaker in California community college history, as well as, the overall top speaker in the country while at nationals in Illinois. Like my Professor Betty Ballew, I am truly blessed with the privilege of helping students discover their individual strengths while actively negotiating their challenges.

In 1991, a college professor asked me if I was “retarded?”. That same year Professor Ballew told me that I had “presence,” and asked me to join the speech team. Professor Ballew focused on my strengths, and helped me to acknowledge and confront my challenges.
“How would dyslexia affect my grandson?” is the title of an article published by the “South Wales Echo,” on July 7, 2010. The question, posed by the author Deborah Boyce, leads into another question many people have, “how many of us actually know what it (dyslexia) is?” Boyce, then proceeds to give us all more insight into what dyslexia is:

“The word “dyslexia” comes from Greek and means “difficulty with words.” “Dyslexia is a difference in the part of the brain which processes language, and it affects skills that are needed for leaning one or more of reading, writing, spelling and numeracy. Wales Dyslexia emphasises that this does not mean that dyslexic people cannot become literate and that with suitable help dyslexic people can succeed, and they often have different and valuable problem-solving abilities. Wales Dyslexia also estimates that between 10% and 20% of the population are affected by dyslexia, with 4% being severely affected.”

So, back to the articles initial question, “How would dyslexia affect my grandson?” As the article states, and this dyslexic professor knows first hand…your grandson (or daughter) would display a consistent challenge with reading, writing, spelling, numeracy — or all of the above! I – fortunately -am challenged with all of the above. I say “fortunately” because – as the article points out – these challenges forced me to develop “different and valuable problem-solving skills.”

I now realize that it has been the consistent practice of public speaking, that has provided me with attributes that I have employed in all areas of my life for success. Public speaking requires a commitment to structure, preparation and repetition.

Public speaking demands clear structure; structure not only employed for smoothly carrying one’s audience, but structure employed for clearly composing and presenting one’s thoughts. Structure is the foundation for communicative clarity. Since a speaker must first compose his/her words prior to speaking (unless you are a politician 🙂 ), this practice unavoidably helped me to become a better writer.

When I joined the Los Angeles Valley College Forensics (speech) team in 1991, one of my coaches after reading my first speech draft asked me if I was “retarded.” He went on to say, “There is not a complete sentence in your speech, and there is absolutely no structure.” He – Marty Tarras – continued, “Kid – you might look good in front of an audience, but if you cant write properly you won’t get very far.” Soon after, I signed up for English composition. I tested so poorly on the placement exam, I had to enrol in English 21.

English 21, is the course that follows English-as-a-second-language within the Los Angeles Community College district. It was being forced, and humbled, to take English 21, combined with what I was learning on the speech team that made me realize how structure could be employed to formulate, write, and then present through public speaking my thoughts clearly. It was very humbling to start at the bottom — but eventually I learned to negotiate my challenges with words well enough to excel in speech competition for four years, while earning a two and four year degree and a university (Northern Arizona) scholarship for public speaking. Following my undergraduate work, I was awarded a graduate position (California State University Los Angeles) which included a paid teaching and coaching position. In 1999, I wrote a masters thesis, and received an MA in Speech Communication. The structure I learned for speech, I was, and continue being able to apply to all of my thinking and communicating – be it written, or spoken.

Public speaking demands preparation! Public speaking competition is the most intense activity I have ever been involved with. In speech competition – on the college level – students are required to compose and present 10 minute long presentations. The speech must be authored by the student. The speeches must have 10-15 current sources documented and spoken in the speech. The speeches must be so perfectly memorized that the words are delivered not just flawlessly, but in such way that the words do not look memorized. If you want to take home a trophy at the end of the weekend…you must look natural! So, if you want to excel in public speaking competition you must be able to: 1) manage your time, 2) focus with commitment. Being dyslexic, I had never focused or committed to anything academic in my life. And time management was something I never really thought about. But I really enjoyed speaking in front of audiences, and competitive success demanded I learn to manage my time, and focus if I wanted to be successful. As an added benefit, I realized that the very structure I was employing to compose my words for speeches, could also be employed to create ways to manage my time and all of my other commitments not just in school, but life! This dyslexic realized that by deliberately planning and organizing my life, I can pretty much achieve anything I want!

Public speaking demands repetition! In public speaking your whole body and mind are your tool. Just like an athlete has to commit to repetitive physical actions to excel with her/his sport of choice, or a musician spends hours learning to work with their instrument or voice, a public speaker works with his/her tools. A competitive public speakers, in order to be successful, must with great repetition work with her/his body, voice, and mind. Practice, practice, practice! The best selling author, Malcom Gladwell suggests “10,000 hours” (see: ) if you want to be great at something. I AGREE! When you are done practicing…practice some more. I now tell my students, perfect practice makes perfect performances. It is the repetition, specifically the practice of memorization that made me realize how truly powerful the human brain is. In college Forensics, in order for students who are participating for truly competitive programs (like the LAVC Speech Team), students are required to have 4-5 competitive speeches ready for the national tournament held annually in April. This means that any student who is doing platform speeches (prepared speeches) must write, research and memorize 4-5 different speeches. Not only does this require a GREAT amount of initial time dedicated to mental repetition, but following each preliminary speech competition prior to the national competition (most teams will go to 8-12 different competitions Sept-March) the successful students are constantly applying the criticisms given to them from judges at each competition. Successful competitors are constantly editing, and often rewriting their speeches and re-memorizing between each preliminary competition. So, not only does the competitive speaker practice with great repetition the performative aspects required for public speaking, but also she/he is constantly writing. As a dyslexic, who failed the first grade because I could not read; who failed English in the 11th grade because I could not write; and who at the community college had to take English 21, before being permitted to take any college level English courses after being called “retarded” by a college professor — I am confident when I say “it was the four years of intense repetition being practiced with my whole body and mind that helped me to learn to not just negotiate my dyslexia, but to also get creative with my own learning style and discover solvency for my problems associated with dyslexia.” Thank you Marty!

While I believe it is structure, preparation, and repetition demanded in public speaking competition that helped this illiterate to become a college professor – none of it would have happened without another key component: praise! It was the initial praise of a very special college professor, and now colleague 🙂 Betty Ballew that inspired me to join the Los Angeles Valley College speech team. And it was the continued and consistent praise of my parents and peers that inspired me to go the distance with public speaking competition, and then continue into and through graduate school, and eventually become a tenured college speech professor.

So, if you do happen to be blessed with a dyslexic child – my advice is to 1) recognize and identify their challenges, 2) help her/him identify creatively his/hers unique strengths, and 3) encourage her/him to develop their unique gifts with consistent praise!

I’m speech coach Duane Smith. I have served groups and individuals in the corporate and academic areas develop and improve their public speaking skills. I'm also a tenured public speaking professor at Los Angeles Valley College.

116 Comments on “Are You Retarded? Dyslexia!

  1. “Better late than never”

    I just graduated high school and took a few months off after I graduated to focus on work and a few other things that I had going on in my life. I decided to start college in the Fall semester and major in communications. So now it’s the end of the fall semester and I can say that I did pretty good. So I’m really happy about that! Anyway, communications 101 was the first class I had. Early in the morning and just overall the first college class that I ever stepped into. The professor told us the first day that he was dyslexic and before that i had heard of the term but never really paid much mind to it because I didn’t know anybody who has dyslexic. But he told us about this, and then he went on to explain all of the things that he wasn’t successful at, like the first few times he flunked out of community college, or the LAPD written exam that he failed, and the car salesman position that he couldn’t hold up. So as I was listening I was just like woah he’s been through so much, this is actually super interesting. Then he went on to explain his successes, his medals, his scholarships, the job opportunities offered, all because he didn’t give up. Though he started late, I guess it’s better late then never. This article and this story is just so cool! There isn’t anybody that can say that they can’t make improvements in themselves, or they can’t change, because he did! And he did so gracefully. He succeeded through having only one person believing in him. The article just blows my mind. Also, out of my four professors this semester, three of them have dyslexia! And I mean, they’re basically geniuses. 🙂 Don’t knock someone just because they’re different! Cheer everyone on even at their lowest points, that’s when they might need you the most!

  2. Repeat and try again

    These is interesting topic because dyslexia it not common to many. This is a very persuade topic to me, because not I just learn something I did not know. I am wondering do I and many others I know that struggle in my area might be diagnosed with dyslexia. I can relate to professor duane with me taking very low English classes and myself repeating calculus 1 over 7 times at different college. Not until lately I have found a way to study and focus on getting things done. The truth is it is sad to see others and even highly praised professors put down kids in pursuit of dreams. This article shows professor duane drive to keep trying and lucky with his I would say luck of the draw failing and falling into the right hands to steer him in the right path was great. My thoughts are that not only this topic but also many other hindering abilities can be applied to everyday life. The craziest thing I find is that professor duane found the number one fear in life before talking about death and dying and turned in into a lifestyle.-194

    This article was well written. Just outlining it from the start of being born and introducing dyslexia. Then expressing the obstacles over the years and awareness that other did not have. The truth of speaking and how’s to prepare for life. Finally ending up with hard work, help, and perseverance. This article gives a very good fuel to drive for more to the ready, to have goals, structure, preparation, and repetition. The article also express a sense of ethos and pathos with a conclusion of be blessed with what you have. Taking us from the past of professor duane life to real life facts of a competitive speeches. From the gutter to riches in winnings. Recognize and identify their challenges, help other identify their strengths, and encourage others to develop their unique gift with consistent praise. But lastly this article points out that these challenges force me to develop different and valuable problem solving skills leaving the question for you to think about your self and how you are going to apply what is played out in your changing life. -180

  3. “The Little Engine that could”
    I think I can, I think I can. Some of you may know this story kind of and some of you might know this story well. Either way to quickly some it up it’s about a little engine who didn’t believe he could but, when he started believed and trying again and again he finally was able to achieve his goal. He achieved it by believing and not giving up. This article is a great example of this and ties into the Eric Sorto article as well. Even though the disabilities are on two different spectrums they are still distillates that are being overcame to achieve goals. I always have had trouble with numbers and sometimes get them confused someone mentioned I could be dyslexic but, I did research and realized that it was way more serious than I thought it was and definitely was not having as much trouble as others were with this problem. I believe schoolwork would have been way more difficult for me if I did suffer from it. I love the ending of this article speaking of how to deal with a child or your child who suffers with dyslexia. It is all about patience and support when anyone is going through a difficult time with just about anything. I appreciated it as a child and I still do as an adult. Patience and support is all one can really ask for in life. This article was a reminder of how awesome of a teacher we have and how he overcame so much to be where he is and the family man he is today. I knew most of that story already but, rereading it reminded me that it is not impossible to overcome situations even when the world keeps failing you and telling you no. You just got to keep trying and fixing things that you believe you were doing wrong and try again. Life is not easy but, we are in control of what we can do about it.

  4. “Dyslexia, and the Misunderstood Term”

    I have known several people who have been diagnosed with Dyslexia that have achieved incredible things which now includes this Professor. There is a negative association with the term “Dyslexia”, in which people often think of it as a disadvantage. I would argue the opposite, that in fact it should be considered an advantage and nurtured. In addition to the creative wording of this article, I was able to watch a documentary on HBOgo called “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia” and found the synopsis dated Monday October 29, 2012. It describes the documentary as “offering a broader and clearer view of the minds of people with Dyslexia….featuring interviews with notable Dyslexics, including investment pioneer Charles Schwab, Sir Richard Branson who owns the Virgin brand, (i.e Virgin Wireless, Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, etc), high profile lawyer David Boies and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom” (Directed by James Redford). Although traditional methods of schooling is important, it does not mean that everyone needs to learn and be judged in the same way and at the same rate. Science has shown us that we naturally develop and mature at different ratesand in several different ways. So the idea that there may be some variation in the way we learn is really not much of a stretch.

    I thought the article was well written and clearly presented the feelings of a real person who by the structure of a rigid school system, felt not as intelligent as the author probably should have. This was displayed both in the title “Are You Retarded? Dyslexia”, and in the triumph and pride declaring the accomplishments that were attained, through hard work and determination which make them “all the more sweet” to relay. I strongly feel that children with Dyslexia should be judged by a different measure, without removing them from their normal classes and socializing with their friends and peers. With an army of Academics, a more rounded solution can be found fairly quickly. The curriculum can be altered, or possibly one class a day be devoted to an alternative learning approach. There are many ways that school systems can help the new wave of students with Dyslexia, but more change is needed.

  5. Lemons into lemonade!

    With the growing number of ailments and conditions coming to light with new medical advancement and technology, as well as advancements in cures and medications available, there are just some things that require a “human touch.” I am horrified that you were called “retarded” by a professor. It certainly wouldn’t have been accepted as an appropriate word in today’s age, and had I been your mother I would most certainly want to speak directly to Marty myself. But thank God for Professor Ballew.
    Positive reinforcement and the power that words have are so strong; it could either make or break one’s day. As with cyber bullying, the power of words has gone as far as leading children to take their own lives. I had a friend who unfortunately took her own life because she was being bullied in high school. If only she could’ve had a mentor who could’ve given her some praise, maybe she would be here today.
    It’s a shame that you didn’t have the support you needed while in grade school to assist you with these difficulties, but I’m so happy that you snapped back to reality and chose to walk the long hard road to success. With Professor Ballew in your corner, that human connection, that person you could come to for assistance is all that you needed to motivate you to do bigger and better things.

    The article chronologically outlines all of your failures that you’ve been able to overcome. It is very humbling and honest. I believe that your parents also helped in forming the strong-minded person you are today. For them to stay consistent in encouraging you in spite of your failures, and continue to praise you are something that I believe all parents could learn to do for their kids. Sometimes, we need to allow our children to fail so that they know what it feels like to win, on their own. I’ve come through hard times, had to make tough decisions, just like everyone else in our class. Its those times of hardship that make our successes and where we are today that much sweeter. Great life story professor…I’ll reserve my copy of the autobiography now!

    • Joselyn, you make several great points in your post. The first being when you mentioned “cyber bullying” and the “power of words leading to children taking their own lives”. Simple words in the right/wrong context hold the power to change the way we feel about ourselves. When we feel inferior and worthless, that is when thoughts of suicide can creep up, and I am sorry that someone you knew took their own life as a result of bullying. That should never be the case, but it does point to the fact that words can destroy as well as uplift, which leads to the next great point you made. You mentioned the Professors family being a strong influence on who he became, which I think is very true. Not to take away from his personal accomplishments, which it doesn’t, his parents support, on some level, aided in the success of the Professor, either by nurturing, encouraging, or questioning his decisions, or by continuing to embrace him after those decisions were made.

  6. Making It Count

    This is quite an inspiring story, is sad that you were once called a retard and to even think that you graduated from high school with such a low grade. You were diagnosed of Dyslexia years back but today you are a professor of speech. You actually raise from grass to grace with motivation by Professor Betty Ballew and self determination on your part.
    I think is wrong for a teacher to ask his/her student if he was retarded, i mean where is the encouragement that was supposed to come from the teacher? A teacher is required to inspire his/her student to be successful in class and in all aspect of life and not to talk down at them. I really applaud your efforts for being where you are today against all odds.
    With this article, i think is very important to have people who can motivate and inspire you close and keep those that try to talk down at you as far as possible because they are the people that would make you lose focus. A lot of people are born into privilege and yet turn into failures while others accumulate degrees and skills and still fail to achieve what we think they would and the common factor in all of these failures is lack of self motivation. Your story is a source of inspiration for me and i really thank you for sharing it with your students. Usually giving up is easy and trying again seem difficult but successful people sticks to there plan when the going gets tough and your story is truly a good example.

  7. First of all, this article has a direct connection to my life. I’m also dyslexic .English is my second language. Professor Smith wrote about how studying is tough even in his main language. Could you guess how hard it is to study in a foreign language with this disability?
    I have never met a dyslexic professor in my life and when I learnt that Mr. Smith is dyslexic, I was so happy to study with a professor who can understand me. Whenever I explain to one of my professors that I’m dyslexic, they usually think this is just an excuse. To have same minutes with other students for exams is not fair and it is also not fair to be competing with the same rules and regulations. It is very important to be early diagnosed with dyslexia and deal with it to solve the problem.
    My doctors and my parents couldn’t realize that I’m dyslexic until I was 21 years old which is really late. Since my father didn’t know that I had dyslexia, he pushed me to study a foreign language although I was much better with numbers and as well as Math and physics.
    I like to know the other dyslexic people’s life experiences and challenges they are dealing with. This article doesn’t just attract attention to dyslexia but also showing to find your own way to be successful, not to give up ever and not to vest time to find an excuse about your failure. If you are not interested in reading, you may be interested in drawing. You just need to find your own ways to be successful and to discover your own talent. You don’t have to compare yourself with others. Just believe in yourself and find that specific thing that you would successful.

    • It’s good to know that you’re not alone. although i’m not dyslexic myself,i’m always the last person to leave a test and i could only imagine the difficulty of going through school with a reading disorder especially college. My problem is paying attention but somehow i get thru it. Look on the bright side, you said you were good at math and physics and math is one of my worst subjects. No matter how much i study, I just don’t get it. For someone to call professor smith retarded is a terrible thing to do, although i think we’re all retarded in some sort of way or another.

  8. “Without failure, you’ll never know what success is”
    This was such an inspirational article. Professor Duane starts off with his failures that he has encountered throughout his life. He failed the first grade and from that he was diagnosed with Dyslexia. He failed English in the 10th grade, and failed algebra five times. He barely graduated high school with a 1.9 GPA and the dropped out of college three times. He failed his LAPD exam even when his father was the LAPD sergeant. Finally, after realizing that he has to start succeeding he decided to go back to college and finally passed his speech class and from then on, his story was success after success, instead of failure after failure. Seeing what Professor Duane went through from his early ages, throughout high school, and even throughout college and still becoming the successful man he is today, just makes me realize how much dedication, motivation, and inspiration it takes to not give up on yourself and to keep moving forward no matter what you go through or what obstacles life puts in your way. There is no straight path to success, and Professor Duane’s article clearly proves it. Success takes failure, it takes hard work, and most importantly it takes practice. As Professor Duane said in his article, “Perfect practice makes perfect performances” And I completely agree with this quote in so many levels. This quote can be applied in various situations and subjects, which is why I agree with this quote so much. Due to his persistence and “practice makes perfect” mindset, Professor Duane proved his teacher that called him retarded because he had dyslexia wrong. Incredibly wrong. He rose up to the top because of the practice makes perfect mindset and spread his knowledge down to his speech students so they can succeed as well. His discipline to get him to where he is now is not impossible to reach. I believe with the right amount of practice, hard work, and dedication anyone can reach their goals and become success, no matter the amount of failed courses or events they have encountered.

    • Annie, I completely agree with the title you gave your post “without failure, you’ll never know success”, which is true on many levels. Many successful people had to first fail, fail miserably, and fail many times before breakthroughs and success appeared. Our Professor has joined this group of successful people, and as you and he both mention it took “dedication, motivation, and inspiration to not give up on yourself” which is a great message to share. Also if we only experienced success, when true success is achieved, it would be just another event. But with the addition of a few failures, the successes we attain are enjoyed that much more, and create a larger sense of accomplishment. No one in this world is perfect, mistakes and failures are a part of our nature.

  9. I also failed algebra 2B in high school three time, but that was just being lazy and not taking it serious! At work sometimes I will enter simple things like customer’s phone numbers wrong because of dyslexia, so I can’t imagine that stress trying to achieve other things we take for granted like reading! As I get older, I realize more and more how dyslexia is affecting my job and almost embarrassed to talk about it. I always thought Dyslexia was only concerning numbers, so I really learned a lot from this article. I always learned math different than most people. The way I add simple question is different than anyone I have ever meant. I focus on the structure of making the numbers add up in tens. It is easier for me to pick up equations that way! I never thought about how much public speaking really could benefit someone with issues like dyslexia! Not only can public speaking make you be heard, and get your point across; but really be free therapy for yourself! Therapist always mention how talking about your problems help recovery, as in abusive relationships, etc.! I cannot believe a professor would say something so hurtful and arrogant! I am sure your current and past success stories have proved this teacher wrong! After giving blood in high school, my chemistry teacher asked me why I did it. I answered and she responded” but aren’t you pregnant?” I was so thrown off, I switched out of her class right away! Teachers can be so hurtful and just plain mean! Some teachers should really take in to consideration how much affect they have on students and maybe should pick a new career! It is also interesting to read how much interest someone can pick up for a certain subject when they are truly affected by it! Interesting read!

    • “Are you pregnant?”
      I also failed algebra 2B in high school three time, but that was just being lazy and not taking it serious! At work sometimes I will enter simple things like customer’s phone numbers wrong because of dyslexia, so I can’t imagine that stress trying to achieve other things we take for granted like reading! As I get older, I realize more and more how dyslexia is affecting my job and almost embarrassed to talk about it. I always thought Dyslexia was only concerning numbers, so I really learned a lot from this article. I always learned math different than most people. The way I add simple question is different than anyone I have ever meant. I focus on the structure of making the numbers add up in tens. It is easier for me to pick up equations that way! I never thought about how much public speaking really could benefit someone with issues like dyslexia! Not only can public speaking make you be heard, and get your point across; but really be free therapy for yourself! Therapist always mention how talking about your problems help recovery, as in abusive relationships, etc.! I cannot believe a professor would say something so hurtful and arrogant! I am sure your current and past success stories have proved this teacher wrong! After giving blood in high school, my chemistry teacher asked me why I did it. I answered and she responded” but aren’t you pregnant?” I was so thrown off, I switched out of her class right away! Teachers can be so hurtful and just plain mean! Some teachers should really take in to consideration how much affect they have on students and maybe should pick a new career! It is also interesting to read how much interest someone can pick up for a certain subject when they are truly affected by it! Interesting read!

      • Haylee_Vaughn
        I agree with your statement on getting peoples phone numbers wrong during work. I am not diagnosed with Dyslexia but I do tent to make mistakes recognizing words and numbers where and there and it is definitely frustrating, so I can only imagine a person that is actually diagnosed with Dyslexia and how much more frustrating it can be. I too have never met a professor that was Dyslexic and to see Professor Duane become so successful even when having this, is truly remarkable and inspiring. I also agree how his professor said those harsh and arrogant comments to Professor Duane but I do believe that it gave him even more of a reason to perform better and become the successful man he is today.

    • Oh my god! This is the story of my life, I have struggled with math, algebra to be specific, my whole life. Though im not dyslexic or lazy, it just never got through to me. Ive never struggled with any other subject like that ever. I also wanted to be an IT major but the amount of math classes I had to take was ridiculous, I would’ve had to stay at Valley College for 4 years and do math every semester just to transfer. Im starting to thing I might be dyslexic as well, because I get lost while reading.

  10. Exploring Dyslexia

    What are your thoughts on the topic? What did you think of the article?

    The story of your life is truly amazing to read and you worked hard to get to where you are in your career not and how you managed and took on challenges and achieved many. Dyslexia must have been difficult not knowing how to read, spell, and pronouncing words. Everyone has their passion and goal to achieve from different occupations, careers, tasks, and work to succeed in. To achieve and to get to where you are is great because it shows that you took on anything that came your way as well not giving up. This article truly inspired me to not give up and I will face many issues and struggles throughout my life but I have to remember with every achievement there is a down fall and we need to keep pushing ourselves and motivate ourselves to not give up. Learning disabilities is not a joke, in fact it is emotional and a struggle to see other individuals performing better but we all perform differently and unique. Disabilities are a struggle to go through and I have had my speech stuttering ever since I was born but never gave up. I speak and perform my work and topic and I know I will do my best and impress the audience. The article is inspirational to see all the struggles you went through to achieve your goals and what you are great at. I am happy to read and hear you are a speech professor and are confident in your work. The word and expression, “Are You Retarded” is mean and not nice to say to someone. Everyone has gotten bullied and I believe everyone should be treated equal with the right respect and proper language regardless of disabilities or not.

    • I agree that Professor Duane’s story is truly inspiring and that he has achieved so many things in his life even though he is dyslexic. I agree that everyone has different career goals and occupations and that it takes hard work and dedication to get to where they need to be no matter the circumstance. One thing that Professor Duane portrayed in his article is his drive to never give up, even when he received those harsh comments from his teacher and that he was put down plenty of times. Through all of those times he still became successful and he had no excuses or nothing to stop him from achieving what he wanted in his life.

  11. “If you fail, fail again until you don’t”

    Professor Duane Smith provides an insightful and informative essay on succeeding with dyslexia, providing characteristics of his success which hold true within any professional context. Notably, Duane’s academic teaching style revolves around persistence: his blog contains mostly inspirational stories of audacious members of society who persevered in face of adverse circumstances (see Eric Sorto), his exams are modeled to hammer concepts into the students minds through repetition (the final is a modest 143 questions), even his self written class manual preaches the merits of preparation on most every other page. And with good reason, the adage “practice makes perfect” is exemplified by Malcolm Gladwells’ “10000 hour” rule: most successful historical experts in their fields share a 10000 hour minimum experience within their respective field; another direct reference to the positive correlation between practice time and successful results. Thus, due to the pervasive nature of practice in every aspect of his life, it comes at no surprise Professor Smith totes a reasonably long list of successes including placing his team as first in the Public Speaking National Tournament in 2008, serving as Speech Team coach at Valley College for more than 10 years , running his personal speech business with notable CEO clients, and overcoming his dyslexia despite numerous academic setbacks. To name a few Professor Duane failed 1st grade English, failed 10th grade English, failed Algebra 5 times, graduated with a 1.9 GPA, failed his first speech class, failed the LAPD written exam and finally, failed out of college 3 times, however through audacious determination and characteristic persistence Duane retook speech, passed, joined speech team, won national and state awards, earned his AA in Speech, attended NAU on full scholarship to compete on their speech team, graduated with a BS in Speech and was offered a coaching and teaching position as well as admission to the graduate program at CSULA. The secret to his success to this day? Discipline, and you guessed it, practice

    • Inspiring quote! This is my second to last read from Professors Smith’s blog and I am actually kind of sad not to have more inspiring stories and articles to go over! I am sure I can just google something on the internet but reading other responses from students made it so much more personable! I agree that this read had a lot of good information about Dyslexia! I always thought Dyslexia only had an effect on numbers, but this article really opened my eyes! Professor Smith also mentioned how speech helped him overcome his Dyslexia! I guess I never thought about how many people are affected by Dyslexia!

  12. I am a returning student after almost 15 years. I was hesitant about taking this class because of my fear for public speaking. I also felt out of place and felt that I would be judged. However, the professor’s speech helped me cope with my doubts and lack of confidence as a returning student. His story was an eye opener because we chose our paths by letting ourselves down or uplift ourselves to go beyond our expectations. It is completely up to us to make a change.

    • I was also hesitat to take this class for the exact reasons you pointed out! I felt like I would be judged. I am 22 years old, turning 23 in less than a week, so I believe I am a bit older than most of the kids in this class. That made me so nervous! I didn’t want to be judged for my path taking longer than other students in the class. I also decided to take this class as far in the semesters as I could! We do chose our paths by letting ourselves down or uplifting ourselves to go beyond our expectations!

  13. When I first heard Professor Smith’s story, I almost couldn’t believe it. His story is truly inspiring and an example of not always having the best luck growing up. I thought it was odd how he failed public speaking class although he has had so much experience and confidence with speaking to the class. If he never mentioned his past, I would have never guessed in a million years that he struggled. I would have guessed that he always excelled in education. It does prove that there is a lot more to people than what really appears. I admire his determination and how he didn’t give up after high school and still gave college a shot after the fourth time. It inspires me to never give up regardless of the hardships I have or will experience in the future. Thank you Professor Smith for sharing your story!

    • I totally agree with you that Professor Smith’s story is quite unbelievable and his struggles are truly inspiring. Just like you said if he never really mentioned his past nobody would have guessed that he actually failed the same speech class that he is teaching today. The fact that he went through all these ordeal and still came out a success should be a motivation for others who are currently going through such difficulty hoping to get there someday.There will always be challenging times to overcome along our journey in life, that’s just part of the deal but the we should not get intimidated into giving up our desired outcome.

  14. Learning disabilities are a common phenomenon affecting many Americans. They are usually diagnosed at a young age. It is difficult for any person, especially for a child, to find out that he or she has a learning disability such as dyslexia. For some children this may create a psychological barrier, affect their confidence and self-esteem and prevent them from fully realizing their potential. For some others, like for professor Smith, it was the support and inspiration given by his mentor, professor Ballew, that allowed him to overcome dyslexia and pursue a successful academic career. This story is very powerful and inspirational, it speaks volumes about the importance of self-motivation, confidence and persistence in achieving one’s dreams. It also shows how a tactful, inspirational and caring mentor can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Instead of judging and dismissing students with learning disabilities (worse yet, calling them “retarded”) teachers should give them an additional boost of confidence and encouragement.

  15. Your story is truly what put pep in my step. I was able to identify with it, it sounded like it my own story! But, after reflecting I have found that once you get yourself into a rut it is so hard to get yourself out of it. That is why I take your words of advice in saying that one should always be prepared and consistent. That alone creates a cycle of success. It is easier to fall off then stay on so the key is to stay consistent, stay in the cycle, don’t allow yourself to slack up or fall off. I literally used to call myself retarded in conversation when speaking to people I felt inferior to. For example, “ugh, I’m so retarded.” That was not the case at all, but I did things and associated myself with people that didn’t challenge my intellect or take any effort at all. Like watch television, or hang out with people that were not in college. These things highly effect your own outcome, and that was the case with me. Your story is one I will never forget, I truly learned so much from you. I admire your simplistic vision for life. i think we all look over the fact that complex things are often really simple things that we make complex.

    • You are right about finding yourself in a rut. It’s important not to let anyone take away from your self-confidence and not feel affected by words like “you are retarded.” This should only motivate you to aim higher.

  16. I agree that the brain is capable of amazing things. Every person organizes and formulates what is before them into their own pattern of what makes sense to them. I have a difficult time writing my thoughts into the pre-planned categories of what speeches are supposed to look like. I have to get everything onto the paper and then go back and organize it into what others consider the correct format. It’s difficult for me to change my creative personality into what others envision because in my head it looks and sounds better, my way. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to struggle with dyslexia. It’s really amazing that you found your niche and it’s helped you into who you are today. You are very inspirational and motivate us all to find the subject and tools that will unleash our own greatness.

  17. Your story is touching and very inspiring to read. I believe your ability to fight through what you had to deal with and then succeed is a honorable merit. I now know why you have such a demanding teaching style, in the sense that you don’t let students make excuses. You expect a certain level of hard work because you put in that time and dealt with adversity. You had pressure put on you due to who your dad was and to accomplish what you have is a testament to your will power. I now feel bad that I didn’t “have time” to study for our quiz, because I felt all my other classes were getting in the way. It jus goes to show you that anything can be conquered. You just need to want it bad enough.

  18. Professor Smith you have done what no other professor in any college would do and that is admit that they at some point in life we’re failure’s. It takes a lot of will power to actually open about your personal life to your class because everyone would judge you based on what you told us. I must say hearing a professor going through the challenges is actually inspirational because you prove to us that even if your labeled something that others view as “retarded” you just proved them wrong and I bet they are now sitting there scratching their head that a person like you became the person you are today. You bring a lot of realness to the class and that’s what all other professor’s lack. Thanks Professor for your honesty and giving students will power that they can actually become successful in life even if others put them down and say they’re junk.

    • I totally agree with you! There is no single person who hadn’t had a struggle or a challenge at some point, but as you said nobody admits it. We look at our professors and we see perfection, and that what they want us to see, and some of them are looking at you like you are a lost cause when you are struggling rather than remembering their own struggles and helping you out. I think that knowing that the people you respect and look up to had similar problems along the way, helps you overcome your challenges and motivates you to keep trying.

  19. Professor Smith,
    Your story truly inspires me. Growing up I did not have any problems with reading however math was one of my biggest problems. I was always slower than the other kids when it came to solving equations and would usually be barely passing in most of the math classes I would take. Nevertheless my parents would never let me just completely fail the classes. They would always push me to power through the math classes and eventually I ended up getting as high as B in some of the classes. This was an amazing accomplishment for me. Because it seemed to me that even if I studied as much as the other kid next to me I would still end up with a lower grade. The solution my parents gave me was to just study more. All of us have subjects that are just easy to us and subjects that we struggle with. However like Professor Smiths story, success is possible for anyone. All it takes is hard work and dedication.

    • You actually spoke my mind. I like the sentence “success is possible for anyone”. I believe everybody wants to be successful, sadly there are people that doesn’t know what it takes to produce the outstanding results that successful people do and there are those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work on making their goals and dreams a reality. I was not really the smartest student during my high school days but i happen to be in one of the classes with the toughest instructor who believed that nobody is unteachable, she saw the willingness in me and gave me the push which was all i needed and the rest was history. Though then i felt that she was hard on me but looking back now i will forever be grateful to her.Sometimes you might have the desire to get something done but the desire and ambition are not strong enough, you lack the push, initiative and willingness to take necessary action. In the case of Professor Duane, he was lucky to have met professor Betty as one of his teachers who not only believed in him but gave him the push that he needed to excel.

    • Hey Mehrab I can totally relate with you! All throughout grade school I was never that great at Math. Like I barely did enough to get by is what I’m saying. I failed Algebra 1 (the easiest Algebra ever) 3 times! I had to be sent around to different teachers and everything! My parents always inspired me to do better and pushed me and stuff, but it was one of my Math teachers that really got me to do great and now I actually like Math a lot. I graduated having taken AP Statistics and now I don’t have to take Math at all here at Valley because I scored in the highest placement. But yeah I totally agree with you on the hard work and dedication aspect of things. That’s all you need is to be motivated and know what you want! Proud of you fir succeeding in something that was a struggle to you, keep up the good work!

  20. Hearing your story in class and reading about it gives me hope and its inspiring. I had a struggle in school, though all my grade school I was in special need classes for English and Math. My mom not knowing how to read and write and my Dad always working was not a big help for me. I HATED to be in these class because people will judge me as being stupid. Once at Pierce College I decided to take advantage of the special help they offered to me, after people asking were was I during test it got a little embarrassing so I stopped. I hate school I guess cause I hate failing class and at times I feel that I’m not smart enough to get though school. After working at a office for 7 years as a receptionist and I had to fight to move up a position the last year I was there, because they felt like I was unable to do the work. I finally got the job and I proved to them I can do the my best but after my year back there they only offered me a 60 cent raise. At the point I realized I was better then that, I decided to quite my job and I know I did my best because they called me after 2 month to go back but I passed the offer. I returned back to school in hopes to becoming a elementary teacher. After having you as a professor and hearing your story and also the way you teach you made me see a difference and gave me hope that no matter what if you try your BEST you can do whatever you like. Thank you and Im so glad that I took your class.

    • Seven years it took you to get that job, and you battled got that job! Very inspiring. You shouldn’t feel stupid cause you fail a class. Just hop back in and give it a go. Now if your not putting forth the effort that’s one thing you got to change, but it seems like that’s not your issue. I am glad you returned back to school to further your education, that’s a step that shows a lot of courage leaving your job.

    • Hey! Reading your story and how professor Smith inspired you in your own way was great to hear. I’m sure most people can relate to something they struggled with growing up and got past that challenge because they wanted to succeed. I’m glad you decided to pass on the offer from your last job, and didn’t settle for less. You deserve much better than what you were working and putting in effort for!

  21. I appreciate your story as a triumph of the human spirit against seemingly impossible odds! There was so much stacked against you, but with the inspiration from your teacher, you were able to confront these difficulties and prevail! It makes me reflect on all the wonderful teachers I’ve had in my life, and how they made me passionate about the subjects they taught. It also brings to mind those subjects I had no interest in primarily because the teacher was terrible. In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect with a Speech class, but I can say whole-heartedly that you have challenged me and given me an invaluable experience with this class. Thank you! I also love that you ended this blog with encouraging parents of dyslexic kids to PRAISE them and celebrate their unique talents. I also hope you keep teaching for a long, long time because you’re making a tremendously positive difference in your students’ lives.

  22. Your story is inspiring and teaches your students and audience a number of real-life lessons! I think that those challenges and your unique experiences helped you to become a unique teacher; your teaching style is very different from any other professor I have had during my college years, and the material you give us is not just something that is required by college standards, but something everyone will use in real life. Also, I think that because it was challenging for you to get through school, you understand all the challenges student might face and the way you teach is very straight forward and easy to understand and learn from.
    I think that some professors, like Betty Ballew, are teachers by heart. They are not only giving their students the material required by system, but also care about their student’s success. Somehow they see us through and know how to inspire us to start acting. They know what to say to us and how to plant a seed of knowledge and wisdom into our heads, and they make a difference for those students who is feeling lost. I wish everyone who needs to find their path to have a teacher like Betty Ballew, and I hope there would be more teacher like you and her to inspire students to come to class and learn.

  23. Professor Smith,
    I appreciate your transparency regarding the struggles (and ultimately successes!) you’ve experienced in your life. Ultimately, your roadmap of a life becomes a model for someone to emulate, with or without the challenges of dyslexia. Although I could not personally relate to the challenges associated with that particular learning challenge, I do understand how difficult it can be to learn and excel when you have an additional obstacle to contend with. My family emigrated to this country when I was 9 years old – and not knowing English as a spoken language, I can think back to how my learning stumbled in the beginning because I did not know the language…I wasn’t asked whether I was “retarded” but I did get asked if I was deaf (and was even tested in my elementary school) – since I could not readily respond to someone speaking to me without taking a few seconds to figure out what was being asked/requested of me.
    Keep on inspiring, Professor Smith! You were obviously put on this Earth to make a difference in thousands more college students!

  24. I think it is really commendable and very empowering. Honestly if that were me i do not know if i would be able to say i can move pass and hurdle over dyslexia. That is anything that one feels can hold them back. Smith is someone to look at and see all the challenges that he has faced. Dropping out of college, having dyslexia, having a father that is someone that is looked to as a head person and feeling as if you’re letting them down. It is very relate able having someone say you are not good at something whether it be you have a disorder or you are not particularly good they make you feel so small. That alone can make or break someone. Here Smith has told us in class that regardless you are the one that chooses how your life goes and you CHOOSE what direction you take

    • Sarah,
      I completely agree with you. I believe no matter what obstacle life throws at us, success is still possible. We just have to want it, and by want it I mean you have to have a passion for it. Such as Professor Smith does for public speaking. Once you have a passion for something putting it the work to acheieve your goals does not seem all that hard.

  25. After hearing this in class and now reading it, I can’t believe all the hurdles that Professor Smith had to overcome. First of all, a child has so many stresses in life (believe it or not) but to also add the struggle of having dyslexia makes me feel so bad. I can’t even begin to imagine how his parents had to feel at the time either. I know that if my son had this problem or any other learning disability I would feel like I failed him. I’m so glad that Professor Smith had a supporting mother and father because sometimes that’s all a kid needs. I’m so glad to hear that this disability helped Professor Smith instead of hurt him.

    • I 100% agree with you. Sometimes a situation turns out so much worse because parents do not comfort their kids. I know one person that had dyslexia in high school and his dad wanted nothing but As in school. He did not have compassion for his son and said dyslexia is just an excuse for him to fail in school. His mother was the opposite. She knew that this was a disorder and made it hard for him to do well in school. But my friend got As because he did not want his father to look at him and call him stupid. It is crazy to think with out that loving and supporting parent or parents people can go down a different path in life.

  26. I can tell that this post comes from many years of experience. I have not known anyone personally with dyslexia, but I find it pretty cruel that your own professor would ask if you were “retarded” – that’s the sort of thing that a teacher could get in really big trouble for, especially with the way that word gets around on the internet.
    I myself have not struggled too much with public speaking, despite being a very introverted person. I get really nervous before speaking, just like anyone else, but I think I learned that, if you just use your words to communicate clearly and keep your mind very present and alert while speaking, you can do a decent job. I think part of the reason I know this is because my mother has always had an interest in doing voice-overs. She doesn’t do it professionally, but I grew up hearing her practice articulating her words and projecting her voice. Over time I probably just picked up on it somewhat, and that’s what I’ve been using up to now. I’m still not the best public speaker, but I do my best.

  27. Growing up I had struggles with reading only but I never had dyslexia. I do know someone that has it. One of my closest cousins was diagnosed with this. I remembered that he had to repeat the 8 grade because of his English class. He would always have a hard time reading. It wasn’t until they got him some help and he started doing better. He did not have the capacity to learn at an average pace but he manage to learn at his own timing. Everyone is different and everybody has their own obstacles that they have to overcome. Just like the professor said you need to develop your own strengths.

  28. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to go through school and life in general with a learning disability like dyslexia. Personally, I cannot relate to it because school has always been easy for me. However, all my life throughout elementary to high school, a classmate which was also my neighbor struggled with dyslexia. School was so hard for him and it took him much longer than any of the other kids to complete assignments or to finish reading a chapter of a book. Similar to Professor Smith, he didn’t let it hinder him when he decided he had to just work that much harder than everyone else and went on to do great things and improve his grades, getting into a prestigious university. Things like learning disabilities can either be a blessing or a curse depending upon how you look at it or confront it and if you are going to have to deal with it anyways, you might as well use it to your advantage.

    • I had a hard time with English but not because of dyslexia. It was hard without it I can’t imagine how harder it could have been. That whole trick to this whole thing is not to get sad or mad because of it. You need to do the opposite and embrace it take the challenge and succeed because at the end of the day that’s all you can do.

  29. I think we were all born with the ability to be successful and make a difference, some just have to find a different path to get there. Growing up, school came easy to me. I never really understood how lucky I was for that because my passion was for dance, which I never got to explore in elementary or middle school. I was so focused on dance that I never thought about what I’d go to college for or what I would do after high school. On the other hand, my older brother was dyslexic and also went to a speech therapist multiple times a week. He struggled to get C’s but knew that he wanted to go to college and pursue international business and marketing. Once he graduated high school, he went straight to The University of Missouri and graduated by the age of 21 with two degrees. He proved himself to be just as intelligent as anyone around him, and didn’t let his learning disabilities get in the way of what he wanted. He might’ve had to work a little harder than someone who it came naturally to, but he still arrived at his intended destination.

    Everyone has a different path. For me, it was taking time off school to immerse myself into the LA dance scene. Sometimes this makes me feel as though I’m “behind” because I don’t have as many credits as some of my friends, and I won’t graduate within four years of high school. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. I gained life experiences, learned how to live on my own and support myself at 18, something that college doesn’t teach you. Professor Smith learned life experiences through the times that he didn’t succeed and didn’t get what he wanted. All of the “no’s” eventually lead to a “yes.” If he would’ve passed the LAPD test, then he may never have tried college again, and may never have positively influenced all of the people needing help with public speaking.

    • We have a similar story. School came easy for me as well, and like you had dance, I used to travel around for modeling when I first started college a couple years ago so that put me “behind” as well. People do things at their own pace and like you said learn through life experiences. I think it’s so impressive how your brother, like Professor Smith, decided not to let dyslexia stop them from achieving their goals. With people like them as examples, we can see that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

  30. Having a learning difficulty can make school more difficult than it should be. One of my coworkers suffers from dyslexia and has told me stories about his years back in elementary school. He had a hard time comprehending certain things, and had to repeat a few grades/school years. It was not until he was officially diagnosed that he was able to get the help he needed. Stories like that of Prof. Smith demonstrate that obstacles can be overcome if you put some effort into your set goals. I also agree with the idea that “Practice makes Perfect”. The more that you do something, such as public speaking, driving, painting, singing, etc., the better you will get at it.

    • Juan, this is so true. As i said in my post, consistency is key. Sometimes we want instant gratification, or instant results but not everything works that way. Some things take time, it takes doing something over and over again to reach a point of comfort and confidence. I know several people as well that have dyslexia including myself, it can be very discouraging and a blow on one’s confidence. But as the post states, assessing the issue and treating it is a great solution to the challenge.

  31. People don’t often realize how hard it is to achieve success for people with disabilities. My aunt is a psychiatrist for children with disabilities and she stresses the importance of never giving up. People with disabilities have to work harder than most to get to the same level of success as their peers. It’s great to see that a course like this helps people with disabilities grow and not be afraid to take on tasks even with their something hindering their advancement. It seems to me that this course gives you the tools you need to not only be successful in the speech and communications field but also the confidence to handle any situation that life throws your way.

  32. Can you relate yo anything in the article?

    I must confess that, since the first day of class I felt really inspired by your story. Going from failing to actually being a professor at Valley College, goes out to prove that anyone can achieve anything if they just try a little harder. I couldn’t imagine what you went through when you were a little kid, and failing and failing one after another at everything you tried. I relate to you in many ways, I personally do not have Dyslexia, but I did struggle through my education. Specially in math! It got to the point that I study and study and until this day I think numbers just do not like me.
    Which takes me to the second question.
    Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome?

    Yes, many! but related to the article I can say that this is my second time taking math, and I scored an 100 on my quiz just last week! not to mention that this is probably the first 100 since probably middle school. I felt like crying tears of joy, because I know that my poor scores are not because I do not study, because I know I always do my best. But, when it comes to math, is just like the problems, I do not know what happens! I just know that the results I was getting never matched my effort and willingness to pass. Today, I still feel insecure when it comes to math, but if before I studied only 3 hours now I spent many hours studying. Before I used to say ” but… how do you study numbers,” well, I learned to practice! and I realized that the more I practiced the more I got it. I once left College because of the feeling of failure, but I recently came back just about one year a go, and ever since I’ve been amazed to see my reports with flying colors.

    • I felt the same way on the very first day of class as he was telling his story. It’s so unbelievable that it sounds like something that only happens in movies. I can also relate to your struggles, not with math but with biology. In fact, I love math and numbers. Sometimes I feel like maybe I have some sort of learning disability because no matter how many hours I study, when it came time for the exams I always seem to receive a bad score. My professor just finished posting our grades and I’m proud to say that even with not to good grades on my exams, that I am receiving a B in this class. Hard work does come to anyone even when you don’t have a disability but working hard always pays off.

    • Hello,

      I can so relate to you on Math, this is my 3rd time taking Math 215 and I have never had to take a class more then 2 times. Still this 3rd time around I’m crossing my fingers that I pass. I study all the time I do Math about 1-2 hours daily, but when I take my test I seem to forget everything a fell such like a failure. At this point I just hope to get a C which I hate to do that but I think I give up on this class. I’m glad you started school again and getting good grades keep up the good work.

    • Zussette I must admit they I found Professor Smith’s speech astonoshing the first day of class. The way he presented himself as a failure to becoming a tenure professor at LAVC is truly outstanding. We all had struggles in life but it takes power to admit that and by admitting to it you give other people hope that they still can succeed even if it isn’t so easy, practice makes perfect and only time will tell where you end up in life.

  33. Sometimes it feels like there are keys to life, you put the right key in a lock, turn it and open the door to success. It seems as though Professor Duane found his key. he was determined to make something of his life and kept trying until he found what worked for him. Then he perfected it. There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe but I believe that for the most part, no matter what their disabilities or burdens people can hit their goals through applying what professor Duane did. it seems to be a common theme through out these Blogs. Determination, hard work, preparation and being open minded to different ways of making a situation work for your unique needs. It reminds me of an Einstein quote, “Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

    • Wow, I like that quote from Einstein, it really hits the nail on the head! I think that, as in the case of Professor Duane, everyone can succeed, but in different ways. In today’s society, we kind of try to make everyone succeed in the same way. But the truth is, people are different from each other; some introverted, some extroverted, some are independent and some are team-players, some are “gifted” and some are considered “disabled”, and I think that all types of people blossom under different conditions. And the most effective type of school system will be the type that, hopefully someday in the future, will help all types of people thrive based on their unique strengths. I, for one, tend to thrive at working alone in relaxed situations and fail when I’m put in high pressure, group-work situations.

  34. I cant imagine how hard dyslexia can be but to overcome it and become a college professor is amazing. Especially having a ruff start in school, who would have known you would become a professor. I think if I were to be in your shoes when your professor called you retarded I would have broken down a little. Then again I would have used that as motivation to prove him wrong! Your story is very inspirational to me because I am a returning student and it was very hard to enroll in school again. It was hard because when I was in school I did terrible I was not focused. Because of that I stopped going to school. I decided to take another shot after so many years and I though to my self what other better challenge but to take speech. It has challenged me so far and so far I haven’t died! because I really thought I probably was going to end up dropping the class but I decided no I have to face my fear! So hearing your story says to me keep going!

    • I probably would have broken down too if a professor called me retarded. It is very unprofessional and discouraging at any point in your life. I have been going to school non-stop since kindergarten, so I cannot relate what it is like to return to school after taking a break. However, my cousin is currently going through that right now. She is currently attending Pasadena City College after having taken 6 years off from school. She is struggling but I am helping her hang in there by giving her moral support.

  35. i can only imagine the challenges individuals encounter with dyslexia. But in my opinion i believe that individuals with dyslexia is 100x smarter than any straight A student. I don’t know form experience but i would image that all the words and numbers just get jumbled up in your head and the frustration that that could cause seems really overwhelming. Some one once asked me if i thought i could handle being dyslexic, and the truth is i do not think in can. Duane i have to say i am really impressed that you never gave up and didn’t take failing as an option. a lot of people would not have kept trying and trying but you did and that is really inspiring.

    • Ayaa,
      I think you’re absolutely right in saying that individuals with dyslexia are 100x smarter than any strait A student! I think (I can only make assumptions, of course) you’d have to employ additional cognitive skills in order to make sense what would otherwise be a jumble of words and numbers on a page. Much like all other students that responded to Professor Smith’s blog in the affirmative, his determination and drive to succeed is truly inspiring.

  36. I myself have a learning disability called ADD. I was diagnosed when I was in 3rd grade and I had to cope through out my life even until now. They found out I had this disability when I didn’t concentrate in classes, and whenever the teacher called on me to go on the board, in which I didn’t because I either thought the class was boring or I was doing something more important. But in reality, I didn’t pay attention since my class were boring and all I wanted to do is play with my friends. How I see it as now, I take my education serious since not many kids go to a school since it’s financial problems or something holding them back. I would never thought college will be so exciting and challenging, but I’am content were I’m at since I took your class Professor Duane, which I learn that everyone can succeed if they can overcome it!

    • I just wanted to say that I am very proud of you, and I don’t even know you yet. I was amazed to read that you took your learning disability and transformed all the negativity into something positive. A lot of people feel like there is always a big barrier in front of them that simply blocks them from where they’re intended to go, but hey! you are in College, working towards your Degree and that is something to be proud of.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  37. I can reltate to this article because throughout my entire life I have always been nurtured, taken cared for, and been watched carefully by my parents. My older brother worked with my father since he was just 12 years old and didn’t quit until about the age of 23. My father worked him really hard and basically showed him what tough love really is, and because of this he felt unloved and was forced to be a man of his own. My older sister was seen as a princess in my father’s eyes and gave her anything she wanted and I was carried for like a helpless cat. I was never taught the meaning of “No Pain No Gain” or “Go Get What You’re Worth.” So growing up I would always be the one to ruin things, the one that would always mess up and make mistakes. I was constantly called dumb, an idiot, and moron, etc.. This was a constant thing that I built into it and started to believe that something was definitely wrong with me and I coulndn’t do anything right.

    It wasn’t until after High School that I started thinking about this and about my future. It wasn’t until College when I felt like I had this burrden that I had to become someone greater, I had to prove to everyone that I wasn’t dumb. Going to college has helped feel better about myself because I always feel that I’m now going that extra mile and becoming the first in my family to graduate college. I am now trying to better myself. I haven’t always felt the smartest in my classes and sometimes people would look upon me as if they were always superior to me. I am trying to change that now by trying to get educated and thrive and show people I’m not that same little kid anymore.

    • First of all, I am so sorry that you did not feel supported as a child. I am a mother of twins, and I can’t imagine doing that to my kids. But I commend you on your inner strength. Even with that absence of a nurturing environment, you are challenging yourself and taking your life into your own hands. Educating yourself and realizing your potential is the best thing you can do to overcome your unhappy childhood.

  38. in elementary i was in the resource specialist program which provided kids to learn a lot slower than the other kids in my bigger classes. so every day i would be pulled out of class and sent to the smaller rooms with the rsp teachers teaching me the easiest addition, multiplication and subtraction problems. i was fed up! the teachers thought i was stupid, people made fun of me for being in those classes. and there was no way for me getting out until i hit highschool. In elementary they said i had LD which is learning disability. i learn alot slower than others which is not true. i grew out of it eventually by playing water polo and becoming more of a social individual. so i say to every one out there, stay strong dont give up

  39. Struggles I have Faced
    1) I can definitely relate to this post. Throughout my entire life, I always knew that I was an intellectual and adults around me noticed this as well. I had always been placed in gifted or advanced classes stemming back to either first or second grade. I excelled all throughout middle elementary and middle school. However, towards the end of my middle school days, my math teacher lied to me as well as my father about the grade I was going to receive. When I received my report card and saw my grade, I was in complete and utter shock. I was so disappointed. When I got to high school, I quickly realized that it was not my element and so I stopped trying. My grades were nowhere near where they could have been. Once I got to college, I said to myself it’s time to stop the bs and obtain the grades you know you are capable of obtaining.
    2) One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome in my life is the issues I had with my mother. Growing up, I was raised by my single father. I only lived with my mother for a very short period of time and that was when they were married and I was still a baby. Growing up, I always wanted to have that connection that a daughter is supposed to have with their mothers. I had and still have a wonderful relationship with my father, but the connection is one of a different stature. As I have gotten older, things have gotten better with her and I have learned forgiveness and acceptance. I have learned that if I want to attempt to have a successful relationship with her, I have to accept her for who she is rather than impose qualities on her.

    • Maya that is very brave of you to accept your mom the way she is. Most people go to there grave never finding piece with a loved one. It shows that you have a lot of maturity. Take it from me I worked as a funeral arranger for a year and saw all kinds of family feuds over ridiculous things. There were a few times where relatives didn’t even show up to their parents funeral and others where we had to restrain the deceased family members from rushing other family members. It sounds like you went through a few rough patches like Duane but you hit your stride now! Definitely use these empathetic stories to move, inspire, and touch others through the speeches you give. You never no who you will reach out to and you might help change other peoples lives who are going through similar issues that you already learned from.

    • I see what you mean. Teachers and professors are definitely very important in a young student’s life. I wonder if some know they are often the first confident builders in a child’s life besides their parents. It’s fortunate to see that professor Smith was able to take the professors words and spin them into encouragement to work even harder and get to the place he wants to be in life.

  40. My Life’s Challenge

    1. Can you relate to the article in any way? (Minimum 100 words)
    I can relate to the article because I too have issues with school. I was a very good student until high school. I always did my best and worked hard. However when I went to high school I got extremely depressed. I don’t know exactly why still, but it was almost impossible for me to do work. I still struggle with procrastination and being productive. I set high goals for myself and often I find it overwhelming. In a program I participated in called Youth and Government, I found the power of speech. I too believe in the power speech poses, and hope to utilize it in my future.

    2. Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront? (Minimum 100 words)
    I feel as though I have grown very much as a person through my dark times through high school. However I feel as though I have many more challenges to face. I have high goals and would love to go into business and politics. In order to do that I need to start working hard and getting myself involved in the professional world. It is difficult for me to make that life change but I am optimistic I will be able to overcome my problems and fears!

    • im really sorry to hear you had such a hard tim in high school. I too dealt with depression my early years in high school and focusing on school was hard for me as well. I think i understand a little of how you were feeling in high school. I believe that you can overcome whatever life throws your way. If you would love to go into business and politics i think you should. Life is too short to let anything stand in the way of something you love and have passion for. IM glad to hear that you are optimistic about you goals, most people aren’t

  41. No pain no gain

    I can relate to this article in my own way. I had a very strict mom growing up. When it comes to my life and success my mom pushed me to my best. But when I did well whether it was in school, work, etc… she never praised my success, only came down on me if I wasn’t doing well. This made me very upset when I was growing up.  I would cry to my mom and she would tell me there is no time for tears. I didn’t understand why my mom was like this. This lead to me hanging with people that partied a lot. I was going out more and more just to avoid my mother and arguments between us. As I look back on that part of my life it’s something I needed to experience. How my mom treated me. I now understand that she only wanted me to succeed and be a strong women. She didn’t praise me on the good stuff because she only want me to get better, do more and not get into this comfort zone.  All of this helped me become the person who I am today.

    The biggest challenge right now in my life is the English language. I decided to take this class to help my writing and speaking skills and also expand my knowledge in the English language. I believe that we will all face our own challenges in life. Some will be harder than others. We can not control what happens to us in life but we can control how we deal with it. This is the true challenge. My motto is if you have a goal and you want to accomplish it, be prepared to face challenges. You may fail but that’s ok at least you are trying. Failing helps us learn and will make us better. Believe in yourself, work hard and face your challenges head on.

  42. “Overcoming the Negative”

    I can relate to the article because I grew up as a kid with an eighth grade teacher that was not supportive and always wanted to make an example out of me in front of my class mates. The teacher on parent teacher conference night told my parents that would not amount to anything. That alone started off my psychological down fall in the coming years in high school and my attempts in college. The reason you ask why the teacher was my teacher from hell? A few of us kids during recess found her drinking alcohol and I’m sure she noticed my face peaking through the window of the class room door. I have forgiven her since then but it goes to show you how one person can change the outcome of something or in my case; my life.

    I had to overcome the years of mental abuse from one specific elementary school teacher telling me and my parents that I would not amount to anything. I was lucky enough to have had her in my Seventh and Eighth grades classes. The reason was because a few of us kids caught her drinking alcohol during school time and telling parents that did not believe us did not help my suffering during those years. I was mentally affected by this because from then on my life was set up with disappointments and failures. Coming back to college and getting good grades has put all that abuse from the past to rest.

    • I can definitely relate. I grew up feeling in-superior to other kids my age. I always felt like I could do better. I had a lot of teachers and authoritative figures in my life look down upon me or tell me I wasnt going to amount to anything. Coming to college is often seems to be a good second chance to people. I think community college is such a great way to start over if academics didnt work out in the past. I am very excited to do well in college. I think its wrong that elementary and middle schools and high shcools arent as supportive as they could be and often overlook the severe affects that teachers have on the kids.

    • I am sorry that you had to experience such a traumatic experience with one of your teachers. Often times, I don’t think that a lot of teachers in middle school or high school give a damn about the impact they have in your lives. I think a lot of them are just there for the paycheck and that is so sad to me. Personally, I feel that if teachers don’t genuinely want to inspire their students then they should not be teaching. However, I am glad that your experience has made you a stronger individual and taught you lessons in life.

  43. Turning Liabilities into Assets:

    1. I completely relate to the article. Growing up I was not in a very emotionally supportive home. Parents didn’t really offer any encouragement and I was never very good in school. When I did poorly on school work, parents would get upset and when I did well (like 97% on a test) parents would ask why I did not get 100%? This in turn made me feel like I was not very smart and nothing was ever enough. Over the years as I surrounded myself with encouraging and motivated people, I began to see the untruths that I had been told as a child. I learned that my inability to retain information right away and having to go over materials more than once did mean I was not smart. It meant that I learned things that a slower pace, but it was a deeper learning. Things I retained were engrained in my memory for the rest of my life. And this was an asset. I realized that my goals were not difficult. They were just work. And it was up to me on how much I wanted to get out something by how much work I was willing to put into it.

    2. I am currently 35 years old and going back to College to finish my degree. This is my 4th and I hope final attempt at school. This is a huge deal for me and I have had to walk through a lot of the fears I have faced because of what I mentioned above, as well as the fear of being an older student, time not being on my side anymore etc… which are a few of the reasons why I did not do this sooner. However the difference between this attempt and others in the past is that I am very willing to go to any lengths and role up my sleeves and do my best job possible. This is something that did not exist in me when I was a younger student and is now one my biggest strengths. Fear has been a big challenge which I anticipated, however probably an even bigger and unanticipated challenge has been juggling everything I have going on in my life today. Aside from being a Student at Valley, I have a full time job, a husband, a 20 month and somewhat of a social life whenever possible. However, I seem to operate most efficiently when I have a full load because any other way is just not an option for me. A friend said to me once “the more time I have, the less I get done.”

    • Rosario,

      It is hard not to compare our lives with the people around us. Sometimes you may get discouraged because you feel like you are older than some of your classmates, but there are so many people that take time off school or go back later. What matters is that you’re doing this for yourself. You’re going to be successful because this is something that you want, not something that you felt pressured to do because everyone else is doing it. I’ve seen a lot of my friends waste their time and money on college because they didn’t take it seriously at the age of 18. You’re going to make it there and it’ll all be worth it!


  44. Life’s Pain and Gain

    1) Yes, I can relate to this article. Throughout my whole academic life, I’ve been a hardworking student. I was a straight A student not until my Sophomore year in high school. I hung out with the wrong people, and I started to careless about school. I was kicked out of a program called SAS ( School for advanced studies ) because of my grades. I kept skipping classes and I received my very first “F” in a subject that I once excelled in the past. I barely passed my 10th grade year with a GPA lower than a 2.0. When I started my Junior year, I all of a sudden had this mindset that I needed to get my life back on track. The administrators decided to give me a chance and put me back into the SAS program. The classes were AP classes were at the time, very difficult. I struggled throughout my 11th grade year not because I kept slipping back to “careless world” but because I couldn’t keep up with what was being taught. I remember feeling so stupid because I couldn’t answer questions that were being asked. I didn’t raise my hand like how I would used to because I was afraid of being looked upon as stupid. I looked at my fellow classmates and they seem as if they knew what they were talking about. It was as if I started school all over again, and I couldn’t learn how to read and write. I realized that the year I messed up, reprogrammed my mind therefore, I couldn’t get back on track with my academics. As weeks passed, whatever was being taught refreshed my mindset and I started to understand more clearly on what was being taught. I began to ask questions and wasn’t hesitant. I guess my mind needed a little push to get back on track.

    2) The challenge in my life that I need to confront is loving myself more often. I am my own worst critic. I’ve been called many names in the past as well as constantly feeling as if I don’t belong. I guess I was traumatized. I tend to gravitate towards negativity. For instance, if I were to get invited to a party I would think otherwise whether I should attend or not due to what I think people might perceive me as. I constantly drag myself down and then that would lead me on towards a “depressive mode.” I know that I shouldn’t care what others think about me, but it’s always easier said than done. I’d like to overcome this challenge and begin to love me for me .

    • I can relate to the challenges you over came because I was the teenager that was scared of my own shadow. It took a few close friends in high school that helped me love me for me. If it wasn’t for those few friends I had, I think I would have ended up a death statistic. I think back to my mind set back then and I was afraid of what people thought of me and I thought the world was pointing fingers at me. My parents faced hard times and I was having trouble transitioning which affected what I thought of myself. I liked your post because I could relate to it and I thank you for sharing.

    • I can relate to the challenges you are currently overcoming. Yes people can doubt you, critcize, and dehumanize you, but that being said you are your own enemy. I always try to stay positive even when things go wrong. Being positive and believing in yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself. Those are the two things that help me get through my current struggles.

  45. “Overcoming your obstacles”
    The first thing that came to mind when I thought if this could relate to me was when I was in middle school. I went to private school and they are more strict than a public school so I ended up getting a trouble a lot. I got suspended like three times and almost got expelled. I also was not doing so good in school. But they ended up keeping me and giving me an extra chance. I of course behaved myself my 7th grade and 8th grade. I did better in school and ended up graduating. But there were staff members who didnt think I should of been there but I took advantage of my second chance and graduated.

    As of right now I cant remember of any challenges that I have overcome or have to confront any. I do have some challenges right now that I would like to over come. The first challenge is getting through com 101 and getting an A. I dont like public speaking but I have to take this class for my pre req. I have to finish and get through thse three speaches to overcome this challenge. My second challenge is getting into a nursing program to get my bachelors and then becoming a nurse. So those are the only challenges I can think of right now. Im sure I will have even more in the future.

    • There will always be obstacles in our lives but it is up to us to run away or to confront them. It was a good thing that you stick with the class and ended up improving your reading by a lot. Im sure your parents were proud that you could read at a 10th grade level. My opinion is that I think you should further your education. You get to go to school or get more experience somewhere to be more educated. I dont think you should just take it easy and accept where you are at because you should always want to better your life. Should never want to take it easy and stay put on a certain position but to forward yourself to be great.

  46. Can you relate to the article in any way? (Minimum 100 words)
    The one thing that comes to mind is when i was in kindergarten and had trouble reading english and completing assignments. I ended up in an ESL class while the rest of my friends were in the normie classes. I didnt really understand why i ended up there, because i could speak it well but reading was a bit difficult. By the time i was done with the esl class i was reading english much better and my spanish got a little bit sharper as well. By the time I was in about 5th grade I was reading at about high school level and my parents couldn’t have been happier that I wasn’t a dud.

    Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront? (Minimum 100 words) My main challenge that i seem to be confronted with regularly is whether or not to further my career or to just take it easy and accept where im at, which is isnt so bad. I have always felt that doing the bare minimum was my best option mainly because i dont like to stress myself out. i feel like there is already so many stressors in life and the ones that i tend to push off to the side are the ones that might affect my future the most. so this year im getting out of my comfort zone and take on the stress of managing multiple stressors in my life by making sacrifices that will benefit me in the future

  47. Title : Believe in Nadia
    1-Can you relate to the article in any way?
    I can relate to this subject because when I came to U.S.A. I went through a hard time.Once in the U.S. participants face an adjustment period referred to as “culture shock.” Moving to the U.S.can be a very stressful experience. Everything is unfamiliar; from weather, landscape and language to food, fashion, values, and customs.
    The degree of “shock” depends on such factors as length of study abroad, flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, degree of difference between home and host culture, prior experience abroad and his or her expectations. Culture shock is a normal part of study abroad, and it shows that your daughter or son is experiencing the differences between American culture and that of the host country.
    Finally I got to the point where I set to myself to don’t stress out a lot.
    -“Plunge” into our host culture and wrestle with the differences.
    – Keep an open mind; it is natural to have preconceived ideas and beliefs that come into question while abroad.
    – Athletic activities like team sports or taking walks may be helpful.
    – Get to know others at our host school or organization.
    – Do not isolate myself.
    – Find a local person with whom I can discuss my frustrations and encounters.
    – Learn as much as I can about my host culture.
    – Maintain a support structure with others, particularly those going through the same experience.
    – Keep a journal. Record our impressions of new experiences and the transformations that are occurring within me.

    2- Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront?
    As a new comer and I am working in a big company like Sears, I faced many problems during the day.We’ve all worked with someone who doesn’t pull his own weight — a colleague who checks Facebook all day, takes two-hour lunch breaks, and never meets a deadline. Dealing with a colleague who isn’t giving his all can be frustrating, but don’t presume to know the root causes of his behavior — slacking doesn’t always indicate laziness.Bring specific examples of the offending behavior to the conversation, and clearly explain the impact it’s had on you and other colleagues.Approach the boss in the same way you did the slacking colleague: with empathy, an open mind, and specific examples. If you handle the situation with grace, your manager will be impressed.
    These are my talking to my self everyday.

  48. 1-Can you relate to the article in any way?
    I can relate to this subject because when I came to U.S.A. I went through a hard time.Once in the U.S. participants face an adjustment period referred to as “culture shock.” Moving to the U.S.can be a very stressful experience. Everything is unfamiliar; from weather, landscape and language to food, fashion, values, and customs.
    The degree of “shock” depends on such factors as length of study abroad, flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, degree of difference between home and host culture, prior experience abroad and his or her expectations. Culture shock is a normal part of study abroad, and it shows that your daughter or son is experiencing the differences between American culture and that of the host country.
    Finally I got to the point where I set to myself to don’t stress out a lot.
    -“Plunge” into our host culture and wrestle with the differences.
    – Keep an open mind; it is natural to have preconceived ideas and beliefs that come into question while abroad.
    – Athletic activities like team sports or taking walks may be helpful.
    – Get to know others at our host school or organization.
    – Do not isolate myself.
    – Find a local person with whom I can discuss my frustrations and encounters.
    – Learn as much as I can about my host culture.
    – Maintain a support structure with others, particularly those going through the same experience.
    – Keep a journal. Record our impressions of new experiences and the transformations that are occurring within me.

    2- Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront?
    As a new comer and I am working in a big company like Sears, I faced many problems during the day.We’ve all worked with someone who doesn’t pull his own weight — a colleague who checks Facebook all day, takes two-hour lunch breaks, and never meets a deadline. Dealing with a colleague who isn’t giving his all can be frustrating, but don’t presume to know the root causes of his behavior — slacking doesn’t always indicate laziness.Bring specific examples of the offending behavior to the conversation, and clearly explain the impact it’s had on you and other colleagues.Approach the boss in the same way you did the slacking colleague: with empathy, an open mind, and specific examples. If you handle the situation with grace, your manager will be impressed.
    These are my talking to my self everyday.

  49. 1.Can you relate to the article in any way? (Minimum 100 words)

    Yes, coming from a Spanish speaking family, and growing up in school taking bilingual classes, I felt like it gave me a difficult time growing up and using my words appropriately. I was always failing out of my classes in high school. I would try but I will always have a difficult time. After graduating high school with really low grades I also went to five different community colleges. I wasn’t focus I just simply had a hard time with every subject. Once I started working in the hospital setting and knew what I wanted to do, I had this drive and I tried my very best to be the best I can be. It has taken me a while but I feel like I’ve learned how to work with myself even when everything could feel so difficult to understand at times.

    2.Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront? (Minimum 100 words)

    My grandma passed away this March. Before she did – for my cultural speech I talked about how I would like to overcome my fear of public speaking. I always freeze and I always give up. After she passed away, during her memorial people started going up to talk about my grandma. This woman was my mother and seeing people go up made me feel like I had to be up there to let the world know of how amazing she was. I thought I was going to just freeze and not be able to talk about her the way I would had loved too. It the first time in my life I was able to go up and talk about her for quiet sometime in front of so many people. I was proud , and at that very moment I realized it was the first time I have ever talked without fear in front of so many people. I am hoping it won’t be different during my Informative Speech, but being in this class right before it I had to do that was what helped me go up there. I would like to think it was a challenged I was able to overcome for such an important event. And it was all thanks to this class.

    • I understand your feeling because of my daughter had the same situation when we immigrated to America. She has many difficulties in the school. She was in 7 grade and in middle school she couldn’t open the locker. As a new comer her classmate ignored her and she couldn’t fine a friend through few months. She started to study hard and tried a lot to be more popular in the class.
      then you can’t let people walk all over you. If you stick to your guns and know when to defend yourself, you’ll actually gain respect and will be more likely to make more friends and to gain popularity. If you’re nice to people just because you want them to like you, you won’t get very far and you won’t be respected.
      If someone is being mean to you, making you feel bad about yourself, and just generally putting you down for no reason, you shouldn’t have to take it. Let the person know that his or her actions are unacceptable.
      You don’t have to stoop down to a person’s level just because the person is being mean to you. You can tell someone to stop what he or she is doing without calling names or being mean in return. Remember that you’re better than that.

  50. Title: Be a Phoenix Rising

    Can you relate to the article in any way? (Minimum 100 words)
    I can relate to the article. I think most people can relate to it. We all have something about ourselves that we are insecure about, that makes us question our worth as a person in society. We all aren’t good at something, yet great at another. I have always hated math. I started university years ago, when I was fresh out of high school, with a major in architect because I like to design and draw. Plus, I have a practical side to me so with that, I thought that studying it would be practical instead of trying to make it as a, say, painter. BUT THEN???? I found out that it requires extensive math and not just basic math, but the harder maths and no way, Jose, I said! So yes, with this example, I can relate to the article. Eventually, I chose to go into Nursing.

    Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront? (Minimum 100 words)
    The biggest most recent challenge in my life is being a stay-at-home mom with two toddlers under 3 years old. I have to play 3 different roles: mom, student, and wife. These are all challenging in their own ways. School takes time, and the kids need attention. The hubby wants the same thing and I struggle with dividing my time with them and then school. On top of that, I have to find time to do SOME kind of cleaning! This is will be ongoing until I finish my nursing. I realize it will be time consuming and will take much energy from me, but the thought of security for my family makes me push even harder. I have to be the rock in the house. It is a daily challenge that I think I am successful by the time I hit the haystack at night. Nothing feels better than realizing my own potential. Everybody should also realize that too.

  51. Can’t Change the Cards We Are Dealt, Just How We Play’em

    I can not say that I can fully relate to the article because I do not have dyslexia and I do not know anyone in my group of family and friends that does. Although I can relate with failing at school and just not being on par with the expectations that were set out for me.
    My parents are wonderful people and growing up they disciplined me strictly and there was no real way to get around that, but as my parents were more involved with their jobs I saw that I could slack off more and more. So I did not do homework and I got in trouble more often then I really should. My social circles did not help but I got older and a school councilor that knew my sister (which did better then me in school) saw I had potential and helped me get on track in academics although I did not pass high school with flying colors I did graduate on stage. I guess I can say that she was my Betty Ballew. After that I came here to LAVC and I am on my way to a better future then I would have had if I continued the way I was.

    The challenge I would say that I had to over come is my constant laziness and easily distracted brain. Since I was young I remember that I just hated homework. I felt that once I stepped out of class because I did not have a teacher to make sure I did it I could just put it off until later. And when I did sit down to do my homework or classwork I would see something that got my attention and I was easily pulled away from doing any work at all. But I grew up and the ramifications were too much and I now try to sit right in front of my classes, I do my homework as soon as I can to get it out of the way and I plan out everything so I never risk messing up my grades again.

    • I think I am like you. Well, I WAS like you when you were in high school and when I was in high school a decade ago. My attention span was not that great. I am fine going home to do homework because it is my home and I am free to do anything and I am free to de-distract myself by locking myself in the room and study. Today, in our time, we have the distraction of smart phones and social media.

    • I think I am like you. Well, I WAS like you when you were in high school and when I was in high school a decade ago. My attention span was not that great. I am fine going home to do homework because it is my home and I am free to do anything and I am free to de-distract myself by locking myself in the room and study. Today, in our time, we have the distraction of smart phones and social media. It is important to have our phones with us. Even though text messaging and social media distracts us, especially in classroom setting, I don’t think I can sit still in class knowing my phone is not with me. It has become the norm and also because I have kids. If something happened, and I had left my phone in the house or the car, I’d be blaming nobody but myself for that.

  52. Having to go the extra mile
    Coming to this country at 11 years old without knowing how to speak a word of English was very challenging and made getting through school that much more difficult. I can relate to this article because I remember seeing how easy it was for my friends to write essays and understand the assignments but for me it was hard and I felt dumb for asking so many questions. I had to work extra hard on every assignment and go that extra mile to make sure I was doing my work correctly. I had always been a good student but once I came to this country and saw how bad my grades were because I didn’t understand the language I felt very disappointed.
    Fortunately, my hard work paid off and I picked up on the language rather quickly, and having to work harder than everybody else helped me overcome this challenge. Going the extra mile every time has helped me set higher standards for myself in all my work, on all aspects of my life; my home, my job and my school work. I was able to succeed and get ahead than all my classmates that once made fun of me for not knowing how to speak English, and I owe that to the teachers that valued my effort and saw what I had to offer and praised my work.

    • I like that you eventually were able to surpass all those classmates that made fun of you when you were struggling. I remember growing up my parents told me that I should never make fun of anyone just because they are having a hard time because you never know when you might need help too. And growing up I realized that they were correct because people I knew would tease me for being in classes that were more strict and had more work to do then their easier classes and I thought, why couldn’t I have easy classes too and do nothing but hang out and watch movies?! But now i’m glad I did not have those because some of them are not fortunate enough to be going to college like I am and they think that just working minimum wage is sufficient enough. Hard work will always pay off in the end.

  53. Don’t Cheat Yourself Treat Yourself

    I have struggled in academics most of my life especially when I didn’t fully apply myself. So I can definitely relate to this article because I was the student that sat in the front of the class so I didn’t loose focus on my studies. I never got straight A’s but I tried so hard to do so because of my family expectations and for my own personal feeling of accomplishments. I never got tested for dyslexia so therefore I’ve never been diagnosed with it. However with my many years of going to school; and my many struggles with tests and trying to figure out a math problem; I’m sure I have the word Dyslexia written right across my forehead in bold capital letters.

    I have so many different challenges in my life that I just learned to deal with each one because I have to. I realized that if I try to run from my challenges it always finds a way to somehow catch up to me when I least expect it to. One challenge that I still have is starting something and not finishing it. Fighting through challenges by making sure things get done in a timely manner makes me feel complete. It also gives me the experience and the self-confidence that I need to get the task done. When I was younger I always wanted the easy way out because I didn’t like to put any or no effort into anything. However now that I am a bit wiser I realized that I will not grow from cheating myself, and that it just hurts me in the end. Motivation along with self-reliance helps me complete things because if I don’t do it then nobody else will.

    • I agree with what you said about feeling complete once you’ve fought through the challenges in life. I too tend to start something and never finishing it. I realized that whenever I start something, I immediately lose interest therefore, I just quit. But after quitting, I always feel as if I am incomplete and have almost always a tendency to regret about it all the time. I too always try to get the easiest way out because sometimes, you just don’t want to put in the effort into getting whatever it is done. I guess putting the effort to completing whatever it is that you started, would give us a sense of fulfillment in life.

  54. A Difference Is Unique
    1. Can you relate to the article in a way, why?
    I can definitely relate to this outstanding article because despite the difficulties I went through and I still do today I say this to myself , “I’m here standing.” There would be times where should will have negative thoughts and vibes that can hunt you down, but what’s inside you is faith. Faith is always the best friend to seek from. Having faith in yourself that’s what matters the most. Some will contradict with your goals and the way you are, but as long as you have faith in yourself, then that will turn out good. Negative vibes aren’t good for you and from the people they surround you. Bad influences and negative actions leads you into having a hard times in believing in yourself and just worrying about what others say about you. It does not work this way, instead, it push you back instead of forward. Sometimes realization matters when you realize about things in your life. It makes you knowledge what you going through and what to do next to do better. Additionally nothing in this life is easy. Everyone usually have their own uneasy moments that they learn from and adopt it into their life in doing better. People learn, including myself, learn from good and bad times. In fact, each person have its own of doing something. Each person have their own story to encountered and to count on. An example of abilities, let’s say I’m good as a mathematician, I personally love math, and it’s very easy and fast paced for me, but the other person struggles with it because he or she is good in English. With that in mind, I’m good at math, but not in English. Now do you see the viewpoints of the abilities that each of us have? Of course, it is obvious. We all are born with abilities, skills, and talents. Although just like everybody else, we have our strengths, but as well our weaknesses. Additionally, some may move faster, but you’ll get there. That’s the least attention of getting there like everybody else. It doesn’t matter how long you’ll take to get there. What matters is that you will get there successfully. Final, this is part of my relationship from this article.

    2. Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or is there a challenge in your life you need to confront?
    In my life there’s always challenges as myself , and as a single mom. There’s always challenges in my life that I have to confront. In life, I learned that sacrifices are worth more than anything. Sacrifices are counted each day. Failing is the word that a lot of us have in mind everyday because we get that reflection of thinking about the future. I believe that failing is the negative action that comes to someone emotionally, physically, and mentally because of fear. Sometimes you have to believe that trying is the key and positive way of thinking for your future purposes. Hardships and sacrifices will not be counted now but it will be founded later when you successfully accomplished your methods. Accountable sacrifices is a point where it isn’t pointless, as many of us think that way, but knowing and believing your ability leads to the best options of your methods in life. Eventually as mentioned, life is not easy, and those challenges faced and overcoming them as well makes you a better person, even though, your sacrifices been rough or are rough. Rough times exist in this world and facing them is a lesson of knowing the world you’re into, which is , you’re the purpose of your life. It’s your life, your choice.

  55. “Being The Odd One Out”

    1. Can you relate to the article in any way?

    Yes, I can definitely relate to the article in many ways. Being a part of a family where academics is VERY important, is very difficult, especially when you struggle in subjects like math and science. Math and science has always been the most difficult subjects for me to comprehend and understand. Every year in high school, I had to take math over again each summer because I was not getting it at all! Tutoring was no help, either. Science was slightly easier, but some sciences, like Chemistry, involve math equations that just killed my little confidence. I have always been ‘ok’, when it comes to school and succeeding in it. But school has always been a struggle for me.

    2. Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront?

    There is a challenge in my life that I am currently working on overcoming. I am working double time to finish up my general ed classes so that I can transfer back to a CSU. When I was 18, I was a freshman at CSUN, and the workload plus the unlimited freedom of being an adult just set me back. I took a few years off of school to pursue what I really love to do, which is hairstyling/makeup. Now, I am trying to get back in the hang of academics and get back into the college student mind frame. I would like to at least receive my Bachelor’s because if I don’t, then I will feel like all this schooling was worth nothing. I like to finish the things that I start, and I want to do something that will make my parents proud of me and not feel like all the sacrifices they made for me were not in vain.
    This semester, I am taking 5 classes, plus I am working. I commute to school and work. It is hard, but I am taking things one day at a time.

    • Wow I totally understand you, dear. Nothing in this life is easy, and complications can turn out bad, but then later with your hardwork, it will be worth it. The reason I responded to this post, it’s because I can somehow relate to this where I’m a full time student, a single mom, and I work. It’s not easy, and every one have its own story to be told because we all have a living. I understand you’re going through rough times, but one thing I can tell you is to not give up because you’ll getting there. It takes patience, but you’ll get there unexpectedly. Right now you’re not there as you expect to be, but you’ll get there. Keep your mind and life positive. Keep trying and have faith. Everything is possible, you’re the key to make that possible. I’m Jessica by the way, nice to meet you. Anyways, keep forward , and don’t look back. Take care.

    • I understand where you’re coming from, I find myself in the same position, but I believe coming back to school as adults gives us a better mindset, and we will be able to take things more seriously because we are no longer teenagers, and we know how much hard work it takes to get where we want to be. It is a challenge, I also work full time and study full time and it can be overwhelming but with the right mindset and taking it day by day, I believe we can get through it. Perseverance is key. Don’t give up. Good luck!

    • I can totally relate to the difficulties of subjects like math and science. I have always had trouble trying to grasp the material that was being taught. It seems you, like many other students, are making tons of sacrifices to get ahead and complete everything necessary to get to your goals. Whenever i hear of people taking a whole bunch of classes in the most minimal time, i cant help but get anxiety from the thought of having to muster up the motivation to knock these classes out but reading what you wrote can at least show me and others that our situation is the current situation of others and everyone is taking their own challenge head on. This is barely my second semester and i hope i can keep chipping away at these classes

  56. Left Brain, Right Brain. Insane in the Membrane.

    1) I have always struggled in math. I never hated the subject, but it was always a challenge; and not in the way you would think. Understanding the concepts being taught is easy for me. However, when I go through a problem on paper, I believe I experience a bit of dyslexia: I will forget a symbol, a number, or replace them with something else. Mix that with overwhelming test anxiety and it becomes a slow torture of “solve for x”. In fact, I had pre-algebra every year of Jr. High until High School, when algebra 1 was the lowest course offered. I only “passed” on paper because my high school went through the motions of pushing students through the academic system. As a result, I have to take algebra AGAIN in college, making my college experience longer than anticipated. I really enjoy algebra with my professor here at LAVC though, so I know I will FINALLY move on to the upper division math courses after this semester.
    2) The challenge that I have yet to overcome is getting along with English teachers. I say this because I am currently taking English 101 here at LAVC and my professor made me realize that I will never have the tolerance to withstand their audacity to allow for favoritism in their classrooms. I find it frustrating that is frowned upon if you are an active, participating student who is eager to learn and knows the answers to the questions because you study. I enjoy learning, but I loathe teachers whose overwhelming egos prevent their students from achieving academic success within their classrooms.
    On a side note: I have noticed a reoccurring pattern with English teachers: they tend to be drawn towards the manic, disorganized, disheveled, and slightly neurotic students.

    • wow I almost had the same experience as you when it comes to math its so weird but I get confused when I see so many numbers next to letters combine together. But when I took intermediate math three times and didn’t pass I felt like a disappointment because I was good in math but I can to realize that it wasn’t me it was how it was presented to me. When I came around to my last try in math I had a teacher that blow my mind in such a great way that I comprehend every little thing he would lecture on. After I passed intermediate math I had a good overall experience from that point forward even thought I’m done with my math courses I still come across to math in my science classes.

    • I understand when you say math is challenging, I myself I find it so twisted, adding one equation to another with all these signs. But my math teacher says that if you keep on practicing then your grade will improve. Am happy for you that you will finally move unto the next division of math after this semester, and I believe if you keep on practicing it, I will get easier. For the English teacher, don’t let the way they treat you get it into your head. Keep on reading and giving the right answer, and the rest will work out for your good

  57. Not giving up.
    1) I can relate to that article, I remember when I got my first job. Everything was pretty amazing at work until one day when one of my workmate quit. My boss found a replacement, but there was something about this lady. She despised and hated everything I did. She wanted me to quit the job I enjoyed doing. She sometimes told my boss false things about me and in case a mistakes occurred, it was going to be my fault. There was a time I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to give her the power over my life. Instead I concentrated on my work and did my work so perfectly (okay close to perfection) that my boss gave me a raise. From that day I know I can do anything I set my heart on no matter the circumstances.

    2) My greatest challenge is public speaking. Its something that I fear and hopefully I will overcome. I remember when I was in high school, we had debates but I feel sick each time I was nominated to appear on stage, and if that didn’t happen I would just disappear prior to my speaking time. The fear I had for public speaking made me insecure that I couldn’t be comfortable in class. And now I have decided to face it once again. It’s going to be hard but am not giving up. I know public speaking is a key to success so I will do whatever it takes to overcome. Because I know I can!!

    • 3) Interesting that the lady was so vindictive enough to attempt to make you hate your job. It’s a shame that there are people in this world that make it their goal to tear people down. I am happy to see that you took a negative situation and turned it into a positive one! I wonder what it was that made her act that way. I feel sorry for people who are that miserable that they need to make others feel the same. I guess the saying remains true: Misery loves company! Seeing how you overcame the psychological challenge of a terrible coworker, I have full confidence that you will be able to master the skills of public speaking!

    • I feel the same way you feel about public speaking. I know we don’t meet as much in this class but I honestly think everything we talk about everything everyone talks about has really made me have a better understanding of how to surpass it. I feel a little bit more confident every time we go over the material. This would be my biggest challenge yet to overcome if I do at the end of this class. I look up to the people that just have it in them to speak without fear and so professionally without fear, or without showing at least.

    • It is nonsense that (your co-worker) was more interested in your job responsibilities than your boss. Rather than her focusing on things she didn’t like about you she should of a)stay focused on her own work or b)gave you solutions to improve your workflow (if it was needed). I think her attempts to make you quit were useless and immature. I am totally agree that if there are any challenges in your life don’t give up! You did great not giving her an opportunity to discourage you and to quit the job that you really enjoyed. Instead of complaining and crying how life is unfair you have focused on your goals and overcame this challenge.
      It seems that you are a tough person because every time you face difficulties you do it with no excuses! You have a great attitude. Keep it up!

  58. Doltish Math Genius

    1. I can relate to this but in a different subject like math. Math for me was so hard to understand it as i enter college because the teachers i had taken it with would do no type of explaining and would just let the book teach us instead of them doing there job. When i was in high school i was so good in math and science that when i had taking intermidiate math twice in college made feel like i really sucked at it and started doubting my career as a medical practitioner since they required a really high level of math. So I decided to take math somewhere else and decided to end up in santa monica college which was the best the decision i have taken because the proffesor i had have helped me so much in strenghten my weak areas of math. After i pass his class with an A math became easy for me to understand it that gave me the motive to help others that where going through the same thing i was going through when professors woulnt explain.Do to the fact that everything my proffesor taught me it had been stuck in my head and vividly recall all the areas where i had trouble with but i also knew i could work the problems as of now.

    2.Due to taking math three times my gpa had gone down and i was put in probation for having a low gpa. It was my first time in probation so i was really scare when they told me i could be kick out of college if i didn’t get out of probation. So i decided to get straight B’s in all my classes and turns out that in that spring semester i got straight A’s in all my four classes that ended up getting me out of probation now my gpa is at 3.5 with hopes that i get into UCLA as this will be my last semester in a community college hoping i become a good dermatologist to help those in need of good dermatologist. Math for me was a huge challenge but with a great instructor that actually care about his students i succeded in comprehending it and working out the problems as well which made feel great because that was one of the most important obstacles i had in getting into my career.

    • Andy I think it’s very interesting because, being dyslexic myself, I was not expected to be good at math. It is very often a hard thing for dyslexics, and yet, it was my strong point. My daughter was not so lucky. She struggled at math. I helped her as long as I could- it had been a very long time since I had taken math. But then, she had the right teacher. He wouldn’t take the “I can’t do it” attitude that she had. He challenged her, and she responded. She went from failing math, to doing really well. I don’t think she could explain what it was that he stirred in her, and yet he did.
      Yes, the teacher really does make so much difference. I shall always be grateful for her Mr. Pettis.

    • It seems like math is a struggling point for everybody. I think my issue with math as well, is the way that it is presented to me. Math is just so frustrating to me! It gives me anxiety, and I have to really pace myself when I have to use math. I’m glad that you were able to find a professor that was able to cater to your needs and make it easier for you to understand.
      I am on academic probation right now, so I am skating on very thin ice right now. Kudos to you for bringing your gpa up! Wish you the best of luck. 🙂

  59. “Is There a DOG?”

    1) Can you relate to the article in any way?

    If you are one of the few who was in class for my Cultural Narrative Presentation, then you know that I can relate to the article. Dyslexia has affected my entire life.

    I grew up in an extremely academic home. My dad was a very famous professor. He wrote the definitive book on the History and Philosophy of Science, and coined the phrase “paradigm shift.” Both of my siblings went to Harvard- my little brother got nearly perfect scores on his SATs.

    So I am “the middle child” in every sense of the word. I just didn’t fit in. I knew there was something seriously wrong with me. Why couldn’t I get it? The phrase, “I must be retarded,” was a common refrain for me. I couldn’t tell anyone, because then they would know how stupid I was.

    It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that they found out that I was dyslexic. By that time I had had enough of school. I was done. So I didn’t go to college when most people do- right out of high school.

    I have had a very successful career, despite not having a degree, and for years I had convinced myself that it didn’t mean anything to me, but then I realized that it just might. That I still felt stupid at times. It was still an underlying thought.

    2) Is there a challenge in your life that you have overcome? Or, is there a challenge in your life that you need to confront?

    So, fast-forward forty years. Two years ago, at the young age of 58, I decided that just maybe it was something that I should try. Why would I put myself through this? A little something called self-esteem.

    The last time that I had taken a class at all, every day before I went into the class I would have to go to the lady’s room thinking that I was going to throw up. So the thought of trying this again was overwhelming. But I don’t like not being able to do things, so I enrolled. I signed up for Environmental Science and Political Science: World Affairs. I am thinking about joining the Peace Corps and thought they might be useful skills in Africa building houses or teaching English. I had to keep reminding myself that I had won just by signing up.

    So, yes, there is a challenge that I am continuing to overcome. Right now I have 20-something credits. It is going to be a very long haul.

    • Wow I’m sure it was challenging to grow up in your household with your father being a famous professor that writes books along with two of your siblings going to such a prestigious school such as Harvard. I’m sure there was a lot of pressure on you to succeed and you always wondered why it wasn’t happening for you, but it’s clearly not your fault. I would just take the word “stupid” out of your vocabulary because that’s just a negative word that shouldn’t be used. You had a successful career without a college education and that stands out in such a positive light. There are people with a college education that can’t even get a good job. The fact that you came back to school years later says that you have determination and the willingness to succeed with or without a college education. Good for you for coming back, and trust me it’s been awhile for me too so I can definitely relate. As far as the people in Africa they need more people like you to make this world a better place.

    • I once heard happiness defined as setting a goal and moving toward achieving that goal. so yes, you did win just by signing up. Enjoy your journey, it is the journey that you chose and that you are succeeding at. I think that you have an incredible story, growing up in a house hold where the bar of success is set so high can be crippling. However, you moved beyond that into a life navigated on your own terms and captured success. Now you are redefining those terms again, how exciting!

      I too jumped into the world straight out of high school (for many reasons). I found success in a career I enjoyed however the amount of instability in that career was not enjoyable. I recognize that instability makes me anxious and have decided to go back to school in the pursuit of a more secure future.

      • You are right about finding yourself in a rut. It’s important not to let anyone take away from your self-confidence and not feel affected by words like “you are retarded.” This should only motivate you to aim higher.

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