Under a bad speller
September 6, 2018
I am an atrocious speller. If my computer didn't have spellcheck, you might think you were looking at a story written in Mandarin or a coded message from within the Deep State probably reminding sect members that liberals have more fun.
I have been deficient with organizing the alphabet in communicative combinations since kindergarten. Second grade was the low point. My teacher became so frustrated with my spelling test results that she called a meeting with my mother and the principal to tell them that I had a severe learning disability.
The principal didn't seem to care too much about this revelation one way or the other, but my mother was not having any of it. She said I was smart and she was not going to let them treat me differently than the rest of the kids. The teacher responded with exceeding passive aggression. Through exclusion, she reminded me often that I wasn't intelligent and treated me with all due respect accorded an average idiot.
The result was that I became an athlete. It was that or become a teen smoker. I wouldn't say that I struggled in school, but I definitely lacked interest in achieving in the classroom. When a teacher tells you that you aren't capable of learning, the result is amazing — you actually cannot. It's like that educator had waved her magic stick of chalk over my head and turned me into a dunce.
It's a funny thing how I reacted to being labeled a bad student. I figured there was nothing I could do to change it, so I changed my attitude instead. I became proud to do just enough to pass. I was a kid that made fun of the high-achieving nerds. What else was I supposed to do, cave into my empty head and envy intelligence? As an adult, I see that would have been the wiser course of action, but remember, I didn't think I was smart and doesn't wisdom come from intelligence? Yes, I know it also comes from age, too, but I didn't have any of that then, either.
Oh, I suppose there were a few rays of hope when I got into high school. I had a really good creative writing teacher who was able to look past the spelling mistakes and lack of grammatical correctness that I hadn't learned over the years long enough to tell me that my expression of ideas and plot development were excellent, and there was my algebra teacher who told me that I had a knack for math. But, it wasn't enough. I thought I had gotten lucky and fooled them into believing I possessed these talents. Ironically, because I didn't want them to eventually figure out I was an idiot, I avoided these supportive figures in my educational life rather than seeking them out for guidance.
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I'm not complaining. I had a happy childhood and it all worked out, to the best of my knowledge. I got into college using my body instead of my brain. Yes, I thought they were making a mistake, too, but I decided to let them figure that out once I got there.
My sophomore year I took a economics class and liked it. My professor took me aside one day and said I ought to consider majoring in it. He persisted until I agreed to take the next class. He became a mentor, encourager and friend. I finally achieved success in school and was so excited about learning that I went on to get a graduate degree.
So, what's my point? Obviously it is that teachers are incredibly important. I got from point F in my life to point B+/A-, but the route could have been more direct without the influence of just one bad teacher early on. We need good teachers all the way through. Good teachers cost good money. We can never cease in working to find ways to remunerate our children's educators in proportion to the importance of their jobs. Our goal should be confident, fearless, resourceful graduates who are not guided by conspiracy theories.
And, there is another point worth discussing. We oftentimes declare, "College isn't for everyone." While this is true, I think there is a tendency to use the fact as an excuse to give up on some kids. How do kids know that college is not for them without actually having experienced college? It is an innate truth for many to know this without having to actually go, but oftentimes I think it's a copout, too. I, for one, did not believe college was for me, until I got there.
Roger Marolt remains a medioaker speller. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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