‘Toeber’ is dyslexia month

Oct 04, 2018

I recently picked up my high school transcript, and tried to gaze at the black Underwood-typed, hurtful document, but my eyes wouldn’t let me go there.

That transcript mentally flew me back to when I was in my second grade wooden, ink bottle-in-the-round-holed desk.

“What’s wrong with me?” I wondered. “I can’t see the same words my school peers see.”

At the end of second grade, my teacher wanted to push me ahead to the third grade, but my mother convinced the nun to hold me back. So I started my second, second grade school year with hurt feelings and embarrassment, but also with expectations that I would become a better reader.

Disappointedly, that didn’t happen. I still was a very poor reader, speller and learner.  But at the end of this tour there was no way my mother or teacher would hold me back a second time.

I was elevated into the third and then into the fourth grade.

Right before our fourth grade recess bell rang one day, the nun called my and three of my peers’ names. Thinking I was called out to help the sister, I immediately had a bright smile. To my extreme disappointment, we four “dumb students” found out we were going to be involved in an experimental reading program. So, for the next several months, we bypassed recess and went directly to our assigned reading room.

When this special education period was over, I was still struggling with my reading and comprehension, but I nevertheless was boosted into the fifth grade.

My teacher became exasperated, and to motivate me to read better, she turned to her default technique. She took me to the back of the classroom to sit on a wooden stool. There, the nun placed a large, cone-pointed dunce cap on my head.

Did this help me become a better reader?

No, but it did show me how to be the classroom clown, and it taught me to become blasé toward criticism.

After cramming eight years of grade school into nine years, I finally became a freshman at a new co-ed Catholic high school.

After a quick perusal of my “D” GPA transcript, a high school administrator baptized me a non-gifted student, and assigned me to a group of high UNDER achievers. So, throughout my high school days, I attended classes with 13 other “D” students. Four years later, I graduated with a GPA of 1.60, which placed me number 84 out of a class of 95.

I was a low academic functioning graduate, so what was this “dumb” person to do? My answer was to join the Army and become a medic. After serving my three years commitment, I was discharged and, again, I faced that nagging question: “What was this dumb person going to do?”

With my GI Bill in hand, I applied and was accepted to a local junior college “for the dumb!”

I was told I could only take two classes, which were transferable to a “real college.” So I registered for a P.E. class and a U.S. history course, but to get my full GI benefits I had to take several non-transferable “bonehead” subjects.

My goal was to get those classes under my belt, and then just stop going to “college.” But instead, when I successfully accomplished that goal, my next target “was to just get one real full-fledged college quarter completed, and I would stop there.”

This led to another quarter. Then to another, and finally I did “walk” to receive my once-unimaginable Associate of Arts degree! With degree in hand, I applied for and was accepted to Portland State University (PSU).

My quarter-to-quarter goal was to take only five classes toward a Bachelor of Science in sociology. Surprisingly, I made it through PSU – with honors!

With a bachelor’s degree in hand, I was hired as a Washington state Probation and Parole Officer Trainee.

Then, two years later, while on academic leave, I was awarded a master’s degree from New York University.

Those are a very few of the accomplishments by a person

• who had a 1.6 GPA;

• who once wore a dunce cap;

• who had to take “bonehead” college classes;

• who will always have the stumbling blocks of a dyslexic.

Even if you see “Toeber” for October, don’t give up on reading and your opportunity to become one of the millions of us productive dyslexics.

Darn right it’s a given people will criticize you, belittle you and give up on you. But you will never reach your goals when you are the one who gives up on you.

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