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Volume 3 • #3 • December 2003


Whenever you turn ice into water or water into steam you have produced what the scientists call a phase change. To produce a phase change in some material, you have to add or subtract something, in this case, heat. However, you can add heat to water endlessly without turning it into steam. If you add too little or add it too slowly, you may get hot water, but you won’t get steam until you make a really dramatic change in the amount of heat you add.

I was mulling this over the other day, looking gratefully at the sunshine which was producing a phase change in the snow on my driveway, when one of those AHA! moments hit me. The phase change idea is an excellent analog for what happens to a dyslectic student if he has his left hemisphere stimulated into action and becomes able to learn to read normally. If you merely send phonics into both sides of his head and add resource room assistance with his homework, he eventually can read sort of, but it is a little like adding some heat to your water but not enough to turn it into steam. He remains embarrassingly in need of extra help, and he still feels inadequate and somehow defective.

But if he can operate comfortably on his own, look just like the other students, and even make the honor roll, as happens often with our RfS students, he has undergone a real phase change in his life. I think of the little girl who, toward the end of her year of RfS training, planked her hands on her little hlps and told the teacher that she knew the teacher was going. to give a spelling test at the end of the week, and she, the student, HAD A RIGHT to take it too!. The amused teacher agreed, and the little girl came out with the next to highest score in the class. When suicidal kids cheer up, when adults tell you that it is the first time in their lives that their lessons have ever made sense to them, when a grown man thanks his teacher for giving him back his dignity, when a grandparent tells you she can’t believe how much happier her grandchild is, you know there has been a phase change.

Cheerful people are happy. The phase change of self-respect and happiness is surely a gift worthy of the Christmas season.

Teaching tip:

Don’t. Have a nice holiday.

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