Four Ways Teachers Hurt Students = Dyslexia and Other Incurable Physical Conditions

Do teachers hurt students on purpose? Never! Educators join the profession because they want to help children learn and grow up to be well-adjusted, happy, and healthy citizens of planet earth.

When teachers hurt students it is because they are missing knowledge and/or tools. Regarding these physical conditions, educators are not at fault because most of the knowledge is new. It is only within the past fifteen years that scientists have been able to "watch" brain activity through functional MRIs.

Teachers hurt students when they do not understand and accommodate:

1. Color-Blindness
2. Dysgraphia
3. Introverts and Extroverts
4. Dyslexia

Awareness of color-blindness is centuries old, however now teachers can find simple online tests to determine at a young age which students are affected. In the following test, children without color-blindness will be able to see the numbers embedded within the pictures while color-blind students will not. You can find it at http://www.colorvisiontesting.com/ishihara, with links to the video format and the complete book of tests for purchase. Since color-related activities are frequent in early childhood education, teachers must give these tests at the earliest possible opportunity.

Students with dysgraphia have difficulties with handwriting and other fine motor skills such as tying shoes. It is neurological in origin and frequently accompanies dyslexia. Dysgraphia is also incurable, so accommodations are required from the beginning of school. Teachers must understand that all writing assignments are exhausting for these children and other means of communicating knowledge must be provided. Students are hurt when they are treated as lazy when their writing efforts fail.

Ground breaking work conducted by Jerome Kagan, an American psychologist and Research Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, introduced us to the physiological systems determining whether we are introverts or extroverts. Marti Olsen Laney, in her book, "The Introvert Advantage," shows evidence that introverts and extroverts process and retrieve information differently.

“The introverts’ blood flowed to the parts of the brain involved with internal experiences like remembering, solving problems, and planning. This pathway is long and complex. The introverts were attending to their internal thoughts and feelings.”

An extrovert's blood pathway is shorter and less complex. They are more apt to seek external stimuli and rewards. These traits are unrelated to intelligence, but explain that overall temperament is not a choice. The shy bookworm student is physically created that way. How do teachers hurt introverts? They do so by trying to force them to become extraverts. Activities like cooperative learning, arranging desks in groups, and loud busy environments hurt these children.

And finally there is dyslexia, that giant silent misunderstood state of being. Color-blindness and dysgraphia may be called disabilities, but being an introvert or a dyslexic is not a disability. When viewed holistically, they only determine that you are better at some activities than others. The way a dyslexic brain reads is different. A dyslexic's brain stores words as images, clearly not as neat and quick as reading via phonics. Dyslexia is misconstrued as a disability because useful reading begins later in life. True . . . that is inconvenient. But the dyslexic mind also sees the big picture, in creative and imaginative scapes, as other brains will not. There is nothing to cure with dyslexia.

Half of all our students have these brains. In the current system, most are not diagnosed. Some will not be diagnosed because a semblance of reading appears early enough. Other children will be identified as just plain stupid or lazy, a notion completely discredited in the work of Dr. John Gabrieli of MIT, http://news.mit.edu/2011/dyslexia-iq-0923.

These right-brained dyslexic students are the ones most hurt by teachers. They are misunderstood, neglected, ignored, chastised, inconvenient kids.

Teachers hurt dyslexic children because they mistakedly view them as objects they need to teach and fix. They think they are broken. Dyslexia only needs to be understood and accommodated, the same as color-blind, dysgraphic, and introverted students must be accommodated.

Let's teach teachers to understand and accommodate.

Note: Discussion is welcome, but I am also looking for comments and advice. Thanks! Smile

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gulfgal98's picture

Both are in the same family. One nephew struggled all through school, but was able to attend college. His dyslexia was not severe. Then something happened in college and he not only was able to get his bachelor's, but also a masters. His younger brother was not so fortunate. His dyslexia is still a major impediment in adulthood. He has a very outgoing personality and people like him a lot, but he struggles with read to this day.

When two of the biggest components for career success in our society are the ability to read and write, a person with severe dyslexia faces a life long struggle.

This is a very interesting topic.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

mhagle's picture

@gulfgal98

I did not go into much detail here, but my observation is that once a dyslexic person has a big enough collection of picture words, suddenly they can read. Reading will be easier in areas of interest, because the collection of picture words is bigger there. Also, traditional college with the lecture format is better for dyslexics. When I went to college I was magically an A student. Unfortunately, this has changed somewhat (in Texas anyway) with the advent of online classes. We have two kids in our household who are currently in college and it appears the level of online busy work required for regular classes has increased dramatically. Not a good thing for a dyslexic person.

As for your other nephew, he sounds like my first husband, a profoundly dyslexic extrovert. He eventually did well professionally as a sales manager. In those days, I did all of his written correspondence for him. He recorded all of his letters on a tape recorder. I transcribed and edited them. Hopefully your nephew will find ways to manage his dyslexia while taking advantage of his other gifts.

Thanks for sharing about them!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

earthling1's picture

Our understanding of the human mind is woefully inadequate. And much,much more so of the growing mind, such as children.
Thanks for this illuminating glimpse in new thought.

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mhagle's picture

@earthling1

Teachers and parents as well would benefit from understanding this information. Glad you enjoyed the read!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

" The way a dyslexic brain reads is different. A dyslexic's brain stores words as images, clearly not as neat and quick as reading via phonics." A true teaching moment would be etched indelibly in my mind. A droning flogging of the material would leave no imprint. Trying to recall it would be like attempting to predict lightning strikes. The only way I could study for a test was to organize the material and write it out, look at the page, then attempt to write it out from memory. And do it again, and do it again, and do it again. I was also, still, an introvert. In school I was tall, so in the arranging of rows I was always in back row farthest away from the blackboard. In the 6th grade the school did eye exams. When asked to read a line on the chart, I said I couldn't see the chart. The first reaction was that of threatened punishment for fooling around. I wasn't until I got the ugliest, cheapest Clark Kent glasses that I knew what it was to see. I grew very fond of Lindsay Andersons film "If". Of course this was long ago before dyslexia was invented.

I don't know what advice you are looking for. If you have a child that has been labeled DO NOT IMPLY IN ANY WAY SHE IS ANY WAY DIFFERENT THAN ANYONE ELSE. This is just tying shoes or throwing a fastball. If there is outside help, make sure he knows that that person is to help, not be pleased. Look to the kid to be the guide, go with them, they've been coping all their lives anyway and this just hopefully better coping. And read to them, books, comics, whatever, even when it seems they're a little to old for it. You'll both be glad later on.

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mhagle's picture

@Snode

Well, you know first hand the suffering a kid goes through. We eventually pulled both our children out of public school for that reason. Too much suffering.

And in my opinion, this is perfect advice . . .

I don't know what advice you are looking for. If you have a child that has been labeled DO NOT IMPLY IN ANY WAY SHE IS ANY WAY DIFFERENT THAN ANYONE ELSE. This is just tying shoes or throwing a fastball. If there is outside help, make sure he knows that that person is to help, not be pleased. Look to the kid to be the guide, go with them, they've been coping all their lives anyway and this just hopefully better coping. And read to them, books, comics, whatever, even when it seems they're a little to old for it. You'll both be glad later on.

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

@mhagle I wish I had something better to offer. The problem with school is that early on, prob. to middle school, everything is a variation on how to put the square block in the square hole, with a predetermined method and time to accomplish this. After middle school it's expected to do the same faster and more efficiently. School should be easy, they tell you what you need to know and give you a test.
For me, I found reading difficult, but I loved stories. I read comics, trying to get it all but skipping over chunks. The pictures filled in enough to keep me on to the end. The same for books. I couldn't get enough of science fiction. I was reading Verne and Wells in the third grade, and as time went on the skipped parts became smaller and smaller, and one day I was reading, no problems any more.
Writing was an ordeal. I'm a lefty and in third grade everything needed to be in ink, so I had to do "crab writing" to keep from smearing what I just wrote. I also glitched on mirror type letters, b d, p,q,g, transposed numbers and made symmetry out of phrases and numbers that wasn't there. We also had to learn cursive, and it was a mess. In the end I reverted to printing, stood my ground and just said my handwriting sucks and its the best I could do. Something about the shapes were easier to deal with and I felt better about it. Today it's a combination cursive/printing, sometimes pleasing, sometimes a mess.
I also had trouble studying. I had to do 3,4 times the repetition of everyone else to remember things that had to be memorized, and still couldn't reliably count on it. But writing it out numerous times and checking myself by trying to reproduce what I wrote from memory I eventually got something that worked, and was able to write out a "cheat sheet" from a picture in my mind of what I had written before I even started the test. Why I couldn't grab what I needed from memory, but could picture the page I had written, I don't know. Math was difficult, until I could use it for real life problems.

Tinging all of this was the shame of failure, of not meeting every ones expectations, of being compared and found wanting, and not being able to explain why I'm a failure in the time allotted, that is still there 60 years later.

I would say the most important thing is to view this as an obstacle, not an impediment. It's more "The Martian" than recovery from polio. There are ways to get around obstacles, and sometimes you have to invent your own. Reading, writing, it just has to be done,like going to the dentist or wearing your shoes on the right feet. This is an obstacle, not a judgement. One way or another the kid will cope into adult hood. But if it becomes the centerpiece of growing up it will be the failure that's remembered. It's funny, in education we defer to experts, but discount our own 12 years of classroom experience. Remember, you have an expert on whats happening right there to consult.

I know this is all anecdote and opinion, and again, wish I had something more concrete in the way of help.

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mhagle's picture

@Snode

I don't know if I will have the opportunity, but if I have the chance to do some teacher training it would be a nice story to tell. It communicates the situation well. Smile

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

@mhagle sure.

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mimi's picture

@Snode @mhagle

Tinging all of this as the shame of failure, of not meeting every ones expectations, of being compared and found wanting, and not being able to explain why I'm a failure in the time allotted, that is still there 60 years later.

and

But if it becomes the centerpiece of growing up it will be the failure that's remembered. It's funny, in education we defer to experts, but discount our own 12 years of classroom experience.

Someone also said in the comments it would be nice if not only teachers but the parents of those children, showing symptoms that are categorized as being dyslexic, could learn from the expert's research results.

After 45 years I have only one 'advice' to give and that is listening to the caregivers at home of a specific child in question. No teacher or expert can imagine or know all the conditionals they would have to adjust their statistical research for in order to get results that are scientifically sound.

When it comes to the parents you would have to consider that one parent does understand from where the 'disability' comes from (if you want to call it a disability) and the other just wonders about it and adds to the discomfort of the child of being a failure and not meeting expectations.

So, one advice I would give a teacher, is listen to the child, learn about the child's life story, and then listen to the person who took care of the child since it was born up to puberty. And do understand that a teacher is not a magical person and can understand all the conditions that might produce a child to show symptoms of dyslexia.

There are many conditions that can influence the child's reading and writing process, migration from one country and culture to the next, having no 'home culture', having no 'home country', having no 'home language', having no capabilities to imagine to look at the world with the eyes of a child's or its parents' race or ethnicity, having no capabilities to look, being yourself one gender, to look at the world through the eyes of another gender. And to consider that the gender of a child, being a left-handed (and left-footed) child, has also an influence.

So, one should question, if the perceived dyslexia of a child is really an 'incurable physical conditions' or not. And as long as that can't be proven without a doubt, I believe one should be 'cautious and restrained' in one's conclusions.

Teachers and parents simply can't do that and today it's more clear to me what one can expect of a teacher. Listen to the child and its early caretakers. And then be silent. Stop categorizing. A child of ten senses being categorized, even with the best intentions to help the child. It still will remember the categorization as something that makes the child 'the other'. That hurts. So, I would say, it's better to just observe and listen than to verbalize your observations.

That may be a very 'sicko' response to you, but then I am sicko of the 'issue at hand' as well. My kid is not over the categorization 45 years later. That is the one thing one should be aware of.

Just my 2 cents in euro and dollars.

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mhagle's picture

@mimi

Sometimes it's the things I leave out or do not communicate very well. Actually I am in complete agreement with the main points (I think) you were making.

First, listen to the child and caregivers. Absolutely, and historically teachers do not do that very well. There is always the joke that "Parent X thinks her child is an angel. Ha ha." I had been a teacher about 20 years before my dyslexic kids entered school and only then understood how important it is to listen and believe parents and children. I knew my kids were smart, because I saw how they understood and processed information every day. They get to school and they can't read. That is all the teacher sees.

The other point I neglected to discuss is that of harming the children by categorizing them. I am actually in favor of throwing out most diagnostician work. Throw out the categories. Teachers need to see the kids as a big group of mixed traits. Not one is better than the other. You accommodate everything. Lots of audio books everywhere from pre-K. Children are recording their voices instead of writing if they wish. They can choose quiet environments or more active group work.

And I didn't touch on children moving between cultures and languages. Here in Texas we have quite a few Spanish speaking children who are enrolled in our schools. Some of the dyslexic students will not be able to learn English very easily. At my last school some faculty and administrators intervened on behalf of a senior to make sure she graduated. She had been trying to learn English for years. It always makes me a bit sad to hear ignorant folks complain about those who have not learned English, like they are doing it on purpose.

Thanks for your comments mimi!!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

@mimi I think I agree with you on everything except the 'sicko' part...I don't understand.
I feel fortunate that dyslexia wasn't recognized as a condition when I was a kid, because it avoided that labeling. I was either 'slow', lazy, defiant or careless in not doing satisfactory work. I knew I wasn't any of those. It was also a time that public humiliation and corporal punishment was used to modify behavior. My stubbornness and anger sustained me. If I had been labeled I would have been crippled. I didn't find out about any of this, dyslexia and the others, until recently.

I don't know what educators have developed to cope with these learning differences, but I suspect they still put the performance of the child at the center, and the kids 'failure' is compounded when she still 'fails' in a setting designed to fix that failure. And the teacher has performance reviews, and is that child is one of the teachers 'failures'? For the parents, the experts tell them they have programs, answers to this 'problem', and if their answers and programs don't work? Well! some one is responsible, the teacher?, the parent?, the child? That is wrong thinking.

I don't know if these conditions are life long, or really how important that is. For me, yes it's lifelong, but when out of school, that measures and judges everything and assigns value, it's easier to cope. That is what I had to do, was invent my own 'copes', my own work arounds. If the first reaction to every assignment or test is panic, and the child learns to measure and assign negative value to himself with every challenge then what is being taught? All these years later the anger comes so easily when I think about it.

I'm sorry that you had this experience, that so little changes. I can only imagine, not know what it would be to be a refugee, with no safe place, with a different language,attempting to be a student with one of these conditions. With all our time on this planet we should have better answers.

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mimi's picture

@Snode
and why I am so sicko about the issue is based on me being 'put down' by folks, who had admitted my kid into their schools, for being "straight forward to them putting exhibits and facts in front of their eyes" (I still have some of those 'exhibits') to point out to them them "what my kid could and potentially couldn't do". They became very serious and concluded that I am an overly anxious and worried "mommy", adding conveniently some other psycho-analytical markers and categorization on me the 'mommy'. They were pointing out that the spoken language skills of my kid were so amazing, that they considered it completely impossible that "he wouldn't pick up the reading and writing part of learning" within weeks.

To which I say (openly only here) that there are almost no kids, who don't pick up a language over their ears. They can speak them (at age level) without accent and fluently til the age of puberty. And they can pick up several languages over the ear and speak them parallelly. After puberty that changes. Why I don't know. Would be nice to have research on that specific issue.

This 'over the ear' learning doesn't translate in learning over the eyes, which is needed to read and write a language. Any kid (and baby animal) can recognize the sound (language) of their mothers by default and doesn't have to 'learn' it. The brain is developing during that time. What exactly happens if you disturb that brain, when developing its first writing and reading steps - which is done over the eyes - I would like to know.

Because kids learning to sound out the visual of a string of letters for a period of time and then try to sound out another language's visual string of letters, or even doing this at the same time can overwork their brains capacities to develop two language's reading or writing skills. Do you switch in that time period the language the kid is supposed to learn to read and write, it's chaos in the brain and the kid's brain can have a 'break-down'. A little bit like a chaotic mess of wool playing with kitten's brains. Ask the kittens to put some order in the messy wool, may be separate the blue yarn neatly from the yellow yarn or something like that. okay.

Come back to the school admissions crew, the weeks went by and guess who was proven right? Me. The administrators 'regretted to admit that may be the kid would be better off at another school'. Another feeling of being a failure added. Thanks dude, I told you so before and you didn't believe me.

So, it made me sick. And it made my kiddo sick too. And it's not forgotten and not really forgiven either. Because it was not a one time occurrence, with not only one school but several in several languages. And btw. you can make 'mother elephant' very angry and dangerous, if she feels her kid elephant is in danger and wants to protect it.

I guess I have some of that elephant genes in me.
Smile

Serving the psycho-analytical online community proudly as a guinea pig. In case I could help you with some insights, my minute rate is 0.50 euro and 0,80 US dollar cents.

And now to something else ... how about gardening?

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@mimi But, one last thing.

' They were pointing out that the spoken language skills of my kid were so amazing, that they considered it completely impossible that "he wouldn't pick up the reading and writing part of learning" within weeks.'

The first thing is that he seems to like talking to people and to communicate, some kids withdraw.
The second thing is, OF COURSE! He relied on spoken word and keen hearing to cope for the other parts. He was able to pick up nuances and meanings better, to read situations at a higher level through spoken word. It's not something that could be turned off either. Newscasts, gossip, the nurses in the doctors offices, it all went in to his mind to be evaluated. The reading and writing was an obstacle. They don't understand that eventually that this will be overcome, just not on their timetable. That the experts couldn't understand why your son couldn't do something had nothing to do with your son, but with their understanding.

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But the dyslexic mind also sees the big picture, in creative and imaginative scapes, as other brains will not.

One doesn't have to be dyslexic to think in the modes that you have ascribed to dyslexia.

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Sigh

QMS's picture

@UntimelyRippd what I read is the dyslexic see things unlike others. Not that others do not see things. We tend to see things differently, that's all.

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Intelligence is being redefined as the ability to repeat ever more complex instructions.

mhagle's picture

@QMS

Great explanation. Thanks!

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

mhagle's picture

@UntimelyRippd

It's not like left brained folks can't be creative. It is not clear cut. It is a messy combination of traits. Some are more left brained and some are more right brained.

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

mhagle's picture

@UntimelyRippd

The danger in attempting to build the confidence of one particular group is that you might unintentionally minimize another. Sorry. Of course there are those who read easily who are also creative. As scientists continue to study and watch brain activity through fMRIs they will learn the answers to these questions.

Dr. Sally Shaywitz from Yale was the first I know of to watch brain activity while reading, comparing dyslexic children to those who read well. While observing dyslexics, they could see activity in the right and front areas of the brain, yet nothing on the left side where symbols are converted to sounds. These observations, which have been repeated in subsequent studies in many universities, coupled with the artistic abilities of dyslexics, have led to the conclusion that those individuals have unique capabilities.

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

QMS's picture

@mhagle great description. Not just building confidence with minds on a different wave. More of finding a common language.

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Intelligence is being redefined as the ability to repeat ever more complex instructions.

Pluto's Republic's picture

I don't know if this is pertinent, but something you wrote snapped into focus for me:

The way a dyslexic brain reads is different. A dyslexic's brain stores words as images, clearly not as neat and quick as reading via phonics.... The dyslexic mind also sees the big picture, in creative and imaginative scapes, as other brains will not....

Half of all our students have these brains.

These right-brained dyslexic students are misunderstood....

I dwelled on these concepts a lot when I was learning to read, and then write, Chinese. At that time, there had been a lot of discussion about left and right hemisphere functions in the brain, which I had studied with interest. It was in my mind when I analyzed the process of learning to decode Chinese. Chinese is not a phonetic language. Word sounds associated with characters are arbitrary. That is why everyone in China can read the same newspaper, but they do not all speak the same language. There are hundreds of different dialects. I chose to learn to read Chinese in English. I didn't think I had enough room in my brain to memorize word sounds, too.

Your description of the dyslexic brain is exactly how I visualized the Chinese brain, up to and including reading from up to down, left to right. Chinese characters are actually little pictures or pictograms of the thing or idea being discussed. They evolved over time, but the roots are still visible.The characters are like icons, and each must be memorized. Elementary school students learn about 2500 words or characters. High school students know 4,500 words. Knowing 1000 words is considered basic literacy. I was right-hemisphere gifted but I don't think it gave me an advantage. It did make me enjoy learning, however. And reading Chinese did make me think differently. Much differently.

So, you say half of all students can be dyslexic, or just half of the ones you work with? I wondered what left hemisphere Chinese children must go through with their reverse dyslexia:

Nature

Scientific American

It could be useful to put the two sides together. If nothing else, we may learn how to turn that special skill into a thinking advantage.

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mhagle's picture

@Pluto's Republic

First to answer your question. Yes, the claim that half of all children are dyslexic is strictly an opinion based on my observations from the last year I taught full time. I counted the number of students in my classes who displayed symptoms of dyslexia. 54 of 114 students. It may have been skewed a bit to the artistic side because 4 classes were general computer courses, but 2 were computer animation classes.

Fascinating articles! I am encouraged to learn about the continuing work with dyslexia using fMRIs. I have wondered if Chinese would be easier for dyslexics to read. Sounds like there are still issues, but different. Would braille be easier?

How long did it take you to learn Chinese and how old were you?

It did make me enjoy learning, however. And reading Chinese did make me think differently. Much differently.

Can you explain how it made you think differently?

This reminds me a bit of the movie "The Arrival." That was a major theme - that the written language made them think (view time) differently.

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

mimi's picture

and longish, I put it away and may just answer in a separate essay, from the pov of a non-expert.
See you later.

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mhagle's picture

@mimi

It might have been at the other place. I remember your story, at least part of it. Yep, it is hard when it hits close to home. Most of the stories are pretty sad because of ignorance on the part of educators.

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

mimi's picture

@mhagle @mhagle
the story never ends, but my brain doesn't want to think about it, so it's gone.

The problem I have with the blog conversations or facebook or twitter etc. is that you don't have the freedom and technical possibilities anymore to erase the digital comments you left behind for good. - I think one should have those capabilities. I try to live with that, but I think it's the one thing that is not right about the platforms we use to talk to each other. The frigging digital spins follow you like radioactivity and can't be destroyed. That's my problem. But YMMV.

I already went on JtC's nerves once with being stubborn about it. It's something I have my difficulties to live with. But I try to be a good girl and don't complain, and don't whine and try to not be stubborn... ahem, yeah, right. Wink

Good Morning.

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