On a late summer afternoon in 1962, I paced the length of the landing on the cement steps to my family’s house. Through the screen on the door, I heard Mom and Dad asking each other where this or that was as they prepared to take me to some place called school. I grumbled to myself, having been forced to wait many times before while they searched for forgotten items. “Come on, let’s go,” I hollered through the screen.
“just wait on the steps,” Mom hollered back. “We just have to find a few things.”
After what seemed like hours, my parents and I squeezed into our Volkswagen and drove to an L-shaped yellow building with a big field around it. My parents led me across a gravel parking lot and up the wooden steps into the school. As I looked about me at the desks and blackboards of the grade one room, my parents were involved in a long conversation with my teacher. I don’t remember what they said but they must have grappled with the problem of my poor vision. Fifty years ago, most people assumed that sight-impaired children couldn’t be educated in public school. Mom and Dad must have had to do a hurculean job of convincing the teacher that I could learn things.
After another period of tedious waiting, my parents and I left for home.
I didn’t take well to school. Having enjoyed the freedom of my formative years, this sudden change in my routine angered me. Consequently, I resisted this unwelcomed change.
My sister, Diane, was a year younger than I. She longed to go with me to school while I loathed it. Though I felt flattered that she wished to be with me instead of enjoying her day filled with play, I wished I could stay with her. Diane cried and whined as I grumbled about kids throwing rocks at me and teachers resenting my presence in their classroom. Mom tried to explain how important learning would be when I was a man but I ignored her words.
Since the teachers had little faith in my ability, they let me play with plasticine and draw pictures. That suited me just fine. I liked drawing and making shapes with the plasticine. As a result of my attitude and the uncertanty of the teachers, I failed grade one and had to take it again next September.
I felt glad that Diane could walk with me to school the next autumn. My attitude had also changed regarding learning. In fact, the teacher once showed me off to her friend, the grade two teacher, when I was able to recite the alphabet. I couldn’t understand why both adults made such a fuss over such a little thing. My new-found interest in learning helped me pass that June.
As I wrote in my Deliverance from Jericho memoir, I nearly had to repeat grade one a third time. The teacher of that class figured I was a new pupil and therefore had to go to her class. My steadfast refusal saved me from that fate. She let me go with a warning that I’d be punished if I lied to her.
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