HomeUncategorized3 Ways Dyslexia Made Me A Better English Language Teacher

3 Ways Dyslexia Made Me A Better English Language Teacher




teacher facing the classAs a child, I had difficulty reading and writing and some teachers would make me feel less than intelligent, which often led to anxiety and low self-esteem if I thought my limitations were to be exposed. This was especially true when I had to read aloud, which was the perfect opportunity for the rest of the class to observe my apparent stupidity. I was subsequently diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 15.

Having experienced language difficulties as a child, the thought of being an English teacher never crossed my mind. However, when I moved from the UK to Mexico my only real job prospect was English language teaching. I started as an English teacher rather reluctantly but soon found that I was quite good at it. I believe that this is partly a consequence of my dyslexia. Here are three ways in which dyslexia has helped me as a language teacher:

1. Patience

The fact that some people need to devote a lot of time and effort to learning has always been obvious to me. If a student needs to hear, see and practice a piece of language many times, then it is my job to provide that for the student. If in the following classes more work is needed, then I accept this as being perfectly normal. Learning takes as long as it takes. Getting frustrated doesn’t help anybody, least of all the students who need the most support.

2. Strategic awareness

As an adult I still can’t spell very well but, like many dyslexic adults, I have developed strategies. Non-dyslexic people seem to learn to spell with little conscious effort. I, on the other hand, have to approach the spelling of most words with a deliberate strategy. This has given me a level of strategic awareness for spelling that most non-dyslexic people have never had to develop. I incorporate these strategies into my teaching when needed.

3. Creativity

Although creativity is not exclusive to the dyslexic mind, I have a fairly good level of creativity, which comes partly from having to develop learning strategies. Also, as a child, I found comfort in the arts and crafts because my learning difficulties were never exposed. It’s so true that we become good at what we enjoy, and more often than not that’s because we devote more time and effort to those activities. In this context, my creative abilities had a chance to develop. Being creative in teaching has its advantages because it helps the teacher respond to the ever-changing dynamics of the classroom. It also makes you feel comfortable with the creative process, which inevitably involves getting things wrong many times before finding the right solution. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, creativity in the classroom makes for a more engaging and fun teaching and learning experience.


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Philip Haines is the Senior Consultant for Oxford University Press, Mexico. As well as being a teacher and teacher trainer, he is also the co-author of several series, many of which are published by OUP.


  1. It took us a few minutes to discover a shared interest in teachers who are dyslexic Philip, so pleased to have read your blog and talked with you in Colombia.

    • It was great to discuss your experiences with dyslexic people on your courses. It is very important to let people know they are not alone.

  2. Hello Philip. Your advice would be value here. I’m a dyslexic TEFL teacher who’s unable to pass the Module 1 DELTA and struggle with the sheer volume of Module 2 or Trinity Courses. I’m considering giving up my career as I’ll never be able to further my career, nor increase my capacity for pay. This is a genuine problem for me who in my late 40s chose a flexible and creative people-oriented career! I have loads of experience prior to teaching (project management, business, retail, creative arts, logistics etc) but find the digital world of words and data blocking my path – not least because the diplomas are heavily formulaic. Any thoughts? Advice?

    • Hi Claire!
      What I know about the DELTA and Trinity courses is that most people struggle with them in some way or other, and I am aware of many who have dropped out, despite not being dyslexic. Dyslexia affects people in different ways and I can only really speak from my own perspective. The way I have worked around my own limitations is to read little and often about a wide range of topics related to ELT and not just focus on the areas specific to a particular assignment. And in the case of writing, I start the assignment with plenty of time and just get down ideas without worrying about structure or if ideas are necessarily relevant. Then, little by little, I start to put it into some kind of structure. When it is complete, I normally leave it a couple of days and then do the final edit and proof read.

  3. Until recently, I thought I was the only teacher of English, visible as such, on the internet. Only now in April 2019 did I came across this post of yours and I’m glad I did. Much of what you say goes for me. After moving to Brazil, the only job I could keep up was teaching English and my mother tongue, Dutch. What I like most and am best at is private teaching including ESP and EAP. Just like you I use my creativity in my teaching but also to develop teaching techniques and language teaching resources.
    For some time I am working on the site Help the English Language teacher is Dyslectic, (held.com.br) where I publish these resources and tell about my experiences as a dyslectic teacher of English. Thought you might like to have a look at it.

  4. Hi Claire.
    Have you considered shifting to private teaching, maybe ESP.
    Something that we dyslectics should avoid to do is trying to be normal and paying too much attention to what we cannot do. Your vast work experience makes me think you have broad interests. As a dyslectic, you probably are creative, intelligent and good at improvising. These are characteristics I explore to offer higher quality and more personalised classes to my pupils. During classes, we, my pupils and I enjoy ourselves while they are learning with high efficiency. Moreover, it is often said that, having learning difficulties can help a person to become a good teacher.

    You probably make a good private teacher of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). My suggestion therefore is, experiment with private teaching, including ESP. You’?l probably find out that you can offer your learners really good classes with something extra. If you’re interested in my experience as a dyslectic teacher of languages visit my site Help the English Language teacher is Dyslectic, (held.com.br). It also has some of the teaching resources I developed, for free.

  5. As you said that creativity is more observable in the dyslexic mind.
    Also, as a child, they found solace in arts and crafts and never revealed learning disabilities. My cousin suspects her daughter has dyslexia after seeing her potential in arts as she likes to hold her colored pens and create remarkable abstract artwork. She plans to hire a Private Tutoring here in New York, NY, to help the child develop her talent.

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