In the third grade we moved to a little School in Quincy, Ohio and I was enrolled in Mrs. Short’s third grade class. She took it upon herself to teach me numbers” Now, I have nothing against numbers, nor did I initially dislike Mrs. Short. (I was an affable sort even in my childhood), but the methods she used with the “normal” children were a little rough on me. I have a relatively logical mind. Arithmetic is not a problem for me unless I have to concentrate on it for hours at a time on a spring day when I feel like there are explosions going off inside me.
If you know me you will not be surprised by my revelation that I was what they called hyperactive when I was a kid. (Some people think I still am) I was born before they started calling it “Attention Deficit Disorder” and making you feel special about it. Teachers took turns lecturing me, paddling me, sitting me in the corner, and ridiculing me. My parents even briefly considered drugging me after the ink blot thing didn’t pan out. The cruelest treatment of all was keeping me in from recess.
Now I think a wise educator would realize that what a boy like me needed more than anything when struggling to concentrate on a long column of figures is a little stretch break from time to time. My mind worked fine, but not in confinement. Some species don’t breed in captivity. Kids like me can’t concentrate in captivity. So dear old Mrs. Short would add long columns of numbers to those which had already discouraged me beyond hope and then with what appeared to be to be a mixture of gleeful sadism pronounce that there would be no recess until all the problems were done correctly. She rightly deduced that I did have the intelligence needed to solve the problems, but she was intolerant or ignorant of what was happening in my little nine-year-old mind.
I suspect it was by a mixture of grace and pity that I had advanced to the fourth grade the next year and studied across the hall in Mr. Davis’ class. Mrs. Short died that year. My Dad and I went to the funeral home to pay our respects, and on the way home he noticed my somber thoughtfulness. He assured me that I had contributed in no way to her death and that she had lived to a good old age and died peacefully in her sleep. He thought she probably had students that caused her more concern than I had which released me from the inordinate guilt that clouded my soul.
Now I’m a big guy and I understand that other than my fair share of the old basic sin nature, I really wasn’t broken or defective, they just hadn’t figured out my “learning style.” Learning the “sevens” by rote memory for no apparent reason never really inspired me to concentrate. But if I was out under the old Studebaker with Dad on a Saturday afternoon listening to the Buckeyes beat up on one of their many inferior opponents, and Dad said; ‘How many more touchdowns do the Buckeyes need to break fifty,” learning my “sevens” made a little more sense.
Walt Whitman wrote:
“When proofs, the figures were arranged in columns before me,
When I, sitting heard the astronomer
Where he lectured with much applause in the classroom
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick
‘Til rising and gliding out,
I wandered off by myself in the mystical, moist night air,
And from time to time looked up in perfect silence at the stars.”
I agree with Walt. I don’t mind a good lecture or book on the wonders of astronomy especially one with color pictures, but nothing compares with a stroll under the majestic night sky. My advice to little boys where were like me: “Never let school get in the way of your learning.”