Education Quandary: I want to work as a secondary school PE teacher but am worried that my dyslexia will be a handicap

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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

I understand why you are worried. To have problems with memory and spelling – your two particular difficulties – will make any job hard for you. But don't give up your plans to train as a teacher. After all, Edward Vickerman didn't.

People repeatedly told him that his dyslexia meant he had no future in the classroom. They said he had far too many problems to consider teaching. But he ignored them and last year won a national Teaching Award for being the country's most outstanding newcomer to the profession.

His colleagues at the Freeston Business and Enterprise College in Normanton, west Yorkshire, where he teaches – not surprisingly – business and enterprise said he was a talented and skilled teacher who was determined that all his students would succeed. He has never hidden his dyslexia, and gets round the difficulty of writing on the board by relying on technology. In fact he says he considers his dyslexia a bit of a gift, because it helps him find new answers to problems and to empathise with students who struggle at school.

So, go ahead and teach. Use all the help you can get to tackle your problems. Be open and confident in telling people about your difficulties and try, like Edward Vickerman, to see it as an advantage, not a handicap.

And remember, should your resolution ever waver, that there are plenty of teachers who have problems with spelling and memory. Most of them just aren't as honest as you are!

Readers' advice

PE is probably the best thing you can teach. Dyslexics often have good coordination and spatial awareness because their brains work in a different way. A lot of sports people, such as Duncan Goodhew and Steve Redgrave, are dyslexic. Also, you could be an inspiration to your pupils because they will see you have not given up. And you will not have to write as much as other teachers.

Chris Darlington (13), London SE12

If you are already getting extra time in exams and other additional help at university you could ask your disability officer about your career prospects and whether teaching is a job you can consider. You could also ask where to go for more specialist advice about teaching. Or ring up somewhere like the Teacher Development Agency.

You need to do your research. Just saying you have problems with memory and spelling is not enough – you could have anything from minor difficulties to severe problems.

Pauline Cordera, Cambridge

If you can teach with one arm or with really bad eyesight, you can surely teach with dyslexia. I have come across these handicaps – and more – in my teaching career. One colleague had such bad allergies she could hardly function at hay fever time. Teachers are as varied as society outside school. What matters is how enthusiastic you are and how committed you are to the job. With those qualities, and determination, I am sure you will find a way to make it work.

Shelley Moffat, Aberdeenshire

Next Week's Quandary

A teacher at our primary school is completely incompetent. Everyone knows it. I am terrified my daughter will have her as her class teacher next year. A governor told me the head was aware of the problem and "encouraging" her to move on. Why can't she be got rid of?

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