Being a teacher who stutters

Michael Taub is a past client at the American Institute for Stuttering. He attended an intensive therapy program several years ago, and he regularly attends our Tuesday night practice/support group. Recently, he shared a story with us about his experiences as a student teacher in a middle school classroom. He was kind enough to share it with our blog. Michael, your motivation to become an excellent teacher is inspiring. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

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Written by: Michael Taub

Some days I hardly stutter at all.  I know, I know: this type of thing shouldn’t matter to me.  But I admit that sometimes when I find myself speaking almost fluently for a good amount of time, I think, “Look at how far I’ve come.”  “My work is finally paying off,” etc.  What usually happens then is that I start getting hung up on not stuttering…and I start silent blocking more.  It’s a cycle – one of stuttering, managed fluency paired with bouts of spontaneous fluency and bursts of confidence followed by moments of uncertainty.  People who don’t stutter are probably familiar with this type of cycle too – one of ups and downs, ebbs and flows – life.  But no matter what part of the cycle I find myself in, I always come back to the tool that helps me most: advertising – just telling people that I stutter.  Without advertising, I don’t know how I would’ve dealt with one of my bigger more recent challenges.

I began my middle school student teaching placement a month ago as part of the process to become a state-certified social studies teacher.  This wasn’t going to be my first time in front of a classroom.  I taught English for a couple of years in Ecuador, and this past fall semester I student taught 11th graders in a South Bronx high school.  However, because this was going to be my first attempt at teaching young kids, I felt like the stakes were high.  I wanted to show myself that I had a newfound confidence that I lacked in 1998 as a middle school student.  I wanted to show myself that adult me could stutter without fear and shame.  I wanted to show the middle school students that I was a confident teacher.

When I was in middle school, I was always trying to blend in with the rest of the kids.  Before I started getting serious about dealing with my stuttering, the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to what I used to consider a weakness.  So now, there I was – standing in front of 27 twelve and thirteen-year-olds, part of me feeling like I was in eighth grade again, as if I was about to deliver an oral report that I had been dreading for days.  I could hear my cooperating teacher’s voice and suddenly I was half-dreaming.  “Mr. Taub will be with us through the spring.  Mr. Taub, is there anything you’d like to say to the class…?”  Everything seemed surreal.  I reminded myself of some of the experiences from the past decade that separated adult me from teenage me…

“I’m looking forward to working with you guys.  Oh and, one more thing.  I w-w-w-want to let you know that I stutter, which means that sometimes I repeat my words or syllables or speak slowly.  I’m fine with it, so if you ever have questions about it or if you need me to repeat myself, just ask.”  Some kids looked surprised.  Some didn’t.  I chose not to worry either way.

At the end of the third class on that first day, a co-teacher in one of our integrated “mainstream” and special-ed classes said to me, “You know, this is really going to be great for John.”  She pointed to a student putting a notebook into his backpack, pushing his chair back under the table.  “John stutters, and he’s going to enjoy having you in the classroom.”  And I remembered again why I’m proud to be a person who stutters.

By |2017-02-19T06:26:57-05:00March 11th, 2013|People Who Stutter|7 Comments


7 Comments

  1. Marena Cole December 10, 2014 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    This is so reassuring to hear. I’m a lifelong stutterer looking to become a history teacher in the next few years…one of my biggest fears is that my speech will impact my teaching. Thanks for the boost!

  2. Amy June 18, 2015 at 10:00 am - Reply

    I’m in tears at the last paragraph. I’d love to be a teacher but I was always told that teaching was just one of the many careers I would be unable to do. I’m finding it very hard to unlearn this. This article is both shocking (in a good way!) and healing for me. Thank you.

  3. renato guedes June 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I’m a undergraduate student of biology. I’m currently participating a program to become a biology teacher. Stuttering is a big challenge for me. I was surprised to read you also go through this cycles, which I just notice to be experiencing. Saying beforehand about my stuttering is even more challenging when I speak for my students…and this pokes me how I’m dealing with my speech experience and how I see stuttering, despite of striving to deconstruct its ableist stereotypes.
    Thanks for sharing you experience

  4. Marissa Padilla July 7, 2015 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    This article really astounded me and gave me a confidence boost into teaching. I’m currently an undergraduate student studying business in Human Resources and countless times I have though of changing majors because of my stuttering. There are people out there who can be critical of the way you speak and that can cause you to loose confidence. I currently volunteer for the American Red Cross and am thinking about doing a volunteer training instructor since training is something I want to pursue in the HR field. I am a bit anxious because of my stammering, but all you can do is address it to the class and let them know about it. I have taken speech therapy sessions in the past and my therapist keeps telling me to address your stammering to the person you are talking to because it breaks the ice. Thank you for Mr. Taub for sharing your experience, this gives me the confidence to pursue training as a career goal.

  5. kithegi October 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    that’s great. am also a teacher who stutters. I teach maths n business studies in Kenya secondary sch. av also been a Sunday sch teacher. every time I meet a new class I candidly disclose that I do stammer. usually my students are teenagers n the really appreciate my openness with them. some teachers of cause have had reservations as to my ability to teach. even parents. but a teacher is rated by how well the students learn. Having taught for a decade I’ve enjoyed it n the results elate me. what an inspiration to students with issues of self esteem?

    • MG December 10, 2016 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      This is Awesome. So inspiring. I am currently applying For teacher’s college and am terrified..

  6. Justin Tovar September 20, 2019 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    Hey Guys,
    I am Justin and I currently a leader for an after school program in a middle school and during the day I am active within the school and going from class to class to help out in any way possible. Just like you michael, i stammer but then I find myself not stammering for a period of time. I get so happy but then I always seem to find my self stammer. I tend not to stammer at all when reading an article or book but when it comes to speaking with a person, I do tend to stammer. Can anybody relate to me about my situation of not stammering when reading any passage outloud. Best wishes to everybody and I know that we have so much potential.

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