Most of my phonics resources are for those who tuck tiny teeth under the pillow at night. They aren’t designed for a black belt who brews his own beer and trains women to disarm attackers.

You write the three-letter words, acting calm. Your veins pulse and give you away. When you bend over the book, your hair is messy. Your finger on the page is rough and calloused. Your voice is suppressed tension, like rocks under water.

I say “Good!” brightly. And when you leave, I google “teaching an adult to read” with tears running down my face.




Kate O’Cuill is an Irish Canadian teacher who loves the snow but misses the old country. She has been writing for years and wants to make 2017 the year she finally submits some of that writing. This is her first published piece.