A memory

(I'm not sure what caused this to come back to me.)

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I spent my first two weeks or so of kindergarten in the "dumb" section. Then someone got the clue that a vision problem is not the same as a learning disability, and they moved me. Maybe they noticed that I already knew how to read, but that I was holding the books really close. (This was before the cataract surgery.)

For the first couple years of school, the books had giant-sized print. Then in, I think, second grade, the print got smaller and I told a teacher "I can't see this". Time passed, and then one day I was presented with large-print versions of my textbooks.

One day shortly after that, I was called out of class to meet Miss H. She was from the organization that sent the books, and from now on she would be spending one class period a week with me. There seemed to be no agenda at first; only later did I realize I was being assessed.

These visits were like manna from heaven. We solved puzzles. (Well, she presented and I solved. At that age I wouldn't have known an IQ test if it walked up and introduced itself.) We worked through the entire body of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. We did the basics of algebra in, I think, fourth grade. In fifth grade she taught me to type (which was fortuitous in several ways). She taught me shorthand (you win some, you lose some :-) ). We played games. I think we diagrammed sentences (yay grammar). We did other stuff (some now forgotten). I had a blast.

Sometime in middle school I caught on: she was a tutor, and her job was to provide remedial education -- because obviously handicapped students would have trouble keeping up in classes. It was an institutional assumption, not hers, and institutional assumptions can be hard to challenge. But why challenge this one? After a visit or two she must have realized that I wasn't suffering from learning problems, but both of us thought this was the best hour of our respective school weeks. I don't know what she told her employers; I simply (and truthfully) told anyone who asked that I enjoyed the visits and was learning a lot.

There were no accommodations for above-average students when I was in school, but through a quirk of nature I got my own private gifted program until high school. By then my eyes had adapted enough that I could read normal-sized books -- not the tiny print that sometimes shows up, but for that I had started carrying a pocket magnifying glass (which I still do). The large-print books and the special visits ended with the move to high school. I was glad not to need the books, but sad not to get the visits.

I wonder whatever happened to Miss H. (I know she became Mrs. something-other-than-H, but aside from that.) I hope her memories of those years are half as fond as mine are.