SHAME AND FEAR:
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN
For years I struggled with the shame my father instilled in me
because of my weak spelling skills, even though I was competent
in other academic subjects and generally received good grades in
elementary and high schools. However, as an employed adult, I masked
my shame and lived in fear of losing my employment if this deficit
were to be discovered.
Furthermore, I thought I could disguise my deficit by using spellcheck.
I was generally so successful in other aspects of my life as an
administrative assistant, dress designer, wife, mother, and an officer
in my church that no one suspected I had any problems with learning.
One day, I saw a poem about the danger of relying on spellcheck
authoritative source on spelling accuracy.
I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot see.
I've run this poem threw it,
I'm sure your please too no,
Its letter perfect in it's weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.
From John Martin
Santa Rosa Jr. College
When I realized from the poem that spellcheck was not always able
to differentiate which homonym to use and, as a result, might not
detect the wrong one, I felt cast adrift without a lifeline. Although
others who were not struggling with weak spelling skills found the
poem humorous, I thought it was frightening because it indicated
that I might never cover my poor spelling adequately and might lose
every employment opportunity. I sought the help of a psychotherapist
to face my burgeoning fears.
She helped me to realize that we all have strengths and weaknesses,
and to consider tutoring to overcome the pain and fear this deficit
created. I held the beliefs that this should have been addressed
in my earlier years, and that it was too late for me to correct
this problem now.
With the help of the psychotherapist, however, I found a learning
specialist who assisted adults with such problems. I waited several
weeks before I could muster the courage to begin studies, and, even
then, my eyes filled with tears of shame when I explained my circumstances.
I was especially frightened that word of my learning difference
would emerge and I would lose my employment. Once I understood that
the psychotherapist and learning specialist kept client information
confidential, I was ready to begin to overcome this frightening
problem. Even though I spoke then and still speak with a high level
of diction in my verbal vocabulary, I was fearful of writing using
that same vocabulary since I was unable to spell many of those words
The learning specialist realized that I never received phonics
instruction since I attended grade school in a district that concentrated
on the whole language approach to learning to read and spell. After
further testing indicated I was struggling with dyslexia as well
as a limited knowledge of phonics, the learning specialist gave
me specialized exercises to alleviate the dyslexia, along with phonics
instruction and other related linguistic components.
I used the specialized exercises to lessen the problems of dyslexia,
learned the phonics in depth, and then applied them to spelling.
As I began to improve in spelling skills, I discovered I was not
relying on spellcheck. This so assisted in dispelling my fears of
exposure, ridicule, shame and the possible loss of employment that
I felt encouraged to continue my education in advanced studies.
"Maryanne Johnson " is the pseudonym of an administrative
assistant who recently began part time studies as an undergraduate
student at a university on the East Coast.