Saturday, June 25, 2016

I hated school (a thank you note for a teacher and a parent)

"I hated school"
(a thank you note for a teacher and a parent) 

I hated school. 

Between the bullies, the homework, and the teachers it was terrible. 

“Say it again, Charles”

“A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,M,N,L”
“No, try it again and speak up this time.”
It was bad enough that the slow readers (us, dumb kid) were set aside in reading time but now the teacher wanted us to prove how dumb we were.
Did I mention how much I hated school?
At the beginning of second grade, I was doing so poorly I hid every paper which had that ugly red “F” on the top of it. For nearly six weeks, my disgrace was buried in the bottom of my desk.
It didn’t last. I still remember going home crying when the teacher cleaned them out and sent every one of them home with me.
I, of course, was promptly punished. No television for six weeks. The punishment was set to match the number of weeks, I hid the truth from my mom.
No, she never punished me for the “F”s, they made that clear, but I was punished for hiding the truth from her. After she discovered the pile of "F"s, Mom talked to me and to the teacher. It didn’t take her long to discover that my eyes were poor. New glasses brought my world came into focus.
My grades returned to “C”s, and everything was great. Okay, it wasn’t great. I still hated school.
In fifth grade, I had the meanest teacher in the school. To this day, I can honestly say she was the strictest disciplinarian, the rule of the law, don’t you cross me, and yes, meanest teacher in the entire elementary school. If you were especially bad and talked in class, she would give you the evil eye.
No one, I mean, No one ever crossed Mrs. Counsel. I think the principle may have been afraid of her.
After the first six weeks in her class, I went from the “C”s to “A”s in every subject. After I finished a year in her class, I never took homework home for the rest of my elementary, junior high and high school career. I graduated at age 16 as valedictorian of my class. Eventually, I earned my BS degree from Southeastern University with honor and graduated with a MA from Olivet University.
No, I am not a genius (close but my IQ test says I missed it by 1 point) and I am not a prodigy.
The secret to the turnaround was my mom and one teacher.
My mom did many things right. First, she never shamed me for doing poorly but encouraged me to do my best. Secondly, she never told me what she was doing behind the scenes or badmouthed any teacher.
It wasn’t until I was older when my mother finally revealed the whole truth.
When I first entered Kindergarten I wanted to read. At the time, coloring and learning write your name was about as high as they aimed. Though I don’t remember, it seems that I decided if they weren’t going to teach me to read, then school was a waste of time. I quit trying to learn.
By the time I hit first grade, I was firmly placed in what was called the slow reading group. Unknown to me at the beginning of every school year, mom would go to school talk to the teacher and be told the same thing. It was school policy never to move kids out of the slow readers group.
My younger brother and I were tested outside of the school system by my mom’s assistance. The results proved that we were not slow, but still teacher after teacher said, “No, we wish we could but it would be detrimental to Charles to move him to the advanced group.”
You probably guessed it. The meanest teacher in the school took a chance and moved me up. I wish I could say I remember when the light came on and I began to love school and learning. And it did take until I was in college before I embraced the love of reading, but it happened.
The turnaround in my grades so shocked, Mrs. Counsel  that she took it upon herself to begin moving other students out of the slow reading group. I don’t know if any of them had the improvement in grades that I have but as far as I heard none of them ever needed put back.
I loved Mrs. Counsel for taking the chance and for my mother's consistent, but non-belligerent pushing.
Mrs. Counsel  asked mom every time they meet, “How is Charles doing.”
Finally, Mrs. Counsel  revealed the truth to her. “Mrs. Areson, I knew you were wrong. I knew moving Charles was going to be a mistake, but I wanted to prove it to you. I want you to know, I am glad I was wrong.”  

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