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The Teacher Who Couldn't Read

Do you ever feel that if anyone found out the truth about you, you'd be finished? Do you go through life basically trying to convince others that you are something you're not—that you're cool when you know you're not, that you're confident or skillful or good-hearted when you know it's not so?

John Corcoran knows what that's like. During grade school he never learned to read or write, but he caused a lot of trouble and somehow kept getting promoted to the next grade. He got to high school and mastered new skills. He says, "I started cheating by turning in other peoples' papers; [I] dated the valedictorian and ran around with college prep kids. I couldn't read words but I could read the system and I could read people."

He received an athletic scholarship to Texas Western College and cheated his way through there as well, getting a degree in education, of all things. Somehow he got a job as a teacher and for the next 17 years taught in high school without being able to read or write. He says, "What I did was I created an oral and visual environment. There wasn't the written word in there. I always had two or three teacher's assistants in each class to do board work or read the bulletin."

Finally he left teaching and became a real estate developer. Later in life he learned to read and write and became an advocate for better educational systems.

In a sense, we're all like John Corcoran. Most of us don't have to fake reading and writing, but we live our lives trying to persuade ourselves, persuade other people, and persuade God himself that we are good people. Deep down inside, though, we have a growing awareness it's not true.

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