How a Teacher Taught Me to Read, without me knowing it, by ‘Getting My World’

Hello Circlers,

I feel deeply humbled by the truly remarkable people who have shown up for me throughout my life. I’ve come to understand the only way I could truly thank them is by uniquely reflecting back into the world what they shined on me.

As a child, I was plagued by multiple learning disabilities (for all kinds of reasons) that made it damn near impossible for anyone to teach me how to read. My parents unwittingly tried everything to help me – from hiring special tutors to sending me to different schools, but nothing ever seemed to make a difference. By the time I was 11 years old, in 5th grade, I was still testing at a 1st grade level of comprehension…not good!

Then one day, an older woman about 65 years old named Mrs. Brutchs, showed up in my class and brought me to her room down the hall. Her room was filled with all kinds of toys, blocks, and colorful pictures. I recall her simply noticing where in the room my attention went and encouraged me to move towards what captured me. I remember feeling in her presence that I was in a magical world that I had only known before when wandering alone all by myself (which, as an only child, was often). 

Like clockwork, she would come every day to my classroom and take me to her room for two hours. I don’t recall her ever talking to me about schoolwork or grades, nor do I ever remember her mentioning what we were doing, or even why we were doing it. I didn’t question her, I simply felt totally at home.

Meanwhile, every Friday we would receive a stack of graded papers from that week to take home to our parents. I hated this ritual because I was lucky if I ever achieved anything higher than a C for grades. Then one Friday afternoon, something remarkable happened. 

But first a quick update – at this point, I had been working with Mrs. Brutchs for about three months. I came home from school and took my ominous stack of papers out of my backpack, ritually put them on the kitchen table and booked it to my room as usual, before anyone saw them.

Shortly later, I heard my mom make almost hysterical sounds of disbelief. Thinking to myself, “Oh God now what have I done?” I heard her call me downstairs. She had tears in her eyes and proceeded to show me paper after paper with only A’s and B’s circled at the top. My mom asked me – what happened? I honestly had no idea.

Mrs. Brutchs had not only taught me how to read but somehow did it without me even noticing it! Turns out she had worked with me every day that whole year and by the time I was in 6th grade I was testing higher than my grade level in reading comprehension (I never did learn how to spell equally well, but who’s tracking?)!

I’ve often thought about my experience with Mrs. Brutchs and how she was able to get me to learn, where everybody up to that point had failed. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that Mrs. Brutchs wasn’t “teaching” me anything. She wasn’t applying a technique, theory of education or any other kind of pretense or position with me. 

She simply loved me and allowed me to be me. And in her love, I think she truly saw me perhaps deeper than anyone had seen me before. Looking back, I realize she listened with a deeper ear, getting both my world and how I really saw and experienced this world. Given I am so right-brain dominant, I now understand she simply guided me into naturally learning how to read the way I would…with my right brain!. She was so attuned to the whole of me that I didn’t even notice I started reading because I wasn’t reading. I was simply being. 

I’ve have been so fortunate to have had other crucial people come into my life like Mrs. Brutchs who, through my time with them, blossomed a potential in me I never knew was there. Remembering all of these amazing human beings, I realize I don’t recall much of what they said to me, but rather what I recall is who I became within the depth of their gaze, love and profound understanding of me.

I’m not sure I will ever really comprehend the extent to which how who I am today has been shaped by the quality of listening of others – coming from the most generous part of the human heart and what it can give. Mrs. Brutchs and others remain for me the most valuable influencers in my life and it has become my life’s mission to offer this same generosity which has ripened me into one who now awakens such a gaze in others.

I invite you to pay this generosity forward with the people in your life. 

with love,
Guy Sengstock

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