Chapter 2: Learning fluency as a second language

In recent years, I’ve spoken to several hundred elementary school students, in schools served by the Peel District School Board and the Toronto District School Board, about the topic of stuttering.

So I can picture that one of my autobiography stories will be a blending of those stories – a large number of which I have audio recorded and video recorded, with a plan to put together a brief video based upon them.

I’ve been retired from teaching for over a decade. At this stage of my life, I’ve been making at least one presentation about stuttering each year for several years now, at schools across the Greater Toronto Area. I’ve lost track of the number of years. In some cases I’ve spoken to just one class in a school; in other cases I’ve spoken to all of the classes at a school (with classes of students cycling through a school library to hear my presentations).

Every year, usually at the end of the school year, I meet a new group of grade 2, grade 3, or grade 4 students. I always speak about pretty well the same thing, always have some great conversations with the students and teachers, and in the process maintain a contact with the life of elementary school students that I otherwise would not have.

What a pleasure it is to meet with students of this age, and to have conversations with them in a classroom setting. I so much enjoy the entire process.

This is a key part of my autobiography story. In the course of my life, in my early years I stuttered severely. Sometimes I could not get out any words at all. But in time I found a way to deal with this and I subsequently played a key role, as a volunteer, in setting up a national group (the Canadian Stuttering Association) for people who stutter, as well as groups elsewhere in the world. The skills I learned, in a process that some people like to call community self-organzing, have stood me in good stead in all of the years that have followed, during which I have also turned to other forms of volunteer work.

Children are the future. What a delight it is to speak with them. Speaking with them once a year, in a classroom setting, is enough for me to keep alive the sense of connection with the experiences and perspectives, of early childhood, that were a part of my day to day life when I worked as a teacher.

Students enjoy my visits, and my storytelling about stuttering. The underlying message, which every child can relate to, is that if a person has a problem, it’s a great idea to deal with it head-on, and to persist until a solution emerges.


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