I was real brave and shared my blog with my dad. This was a huge step for me. My dad taught English and I’ve always looked up to him in regard to all things written. When I was little I would gaze at his vast collection of books and think that I would someday read all of those books so that he would think I was smart. For some reason I didn’t think I was very smart.
It could have been the messages I was receiving from Mrs. Powell, my first grade teacher, or my own parents, but according to my first grade report card in 1969, I was below grade level in everything. Mrs. Powell writes, “Kathleen tries hard” She states that I was immature and quiet and shy. Conversely, under “Citizenship” it states “Shouts Out”. How can you be quiet and shy and shout out at the same time?
I remember Mrs. Powell chastising me in front of the whole class. I had drawn a person without any arms, and she must have thought it would make a great teaching moment by having the whole class have a chuckle. She actually held it up for the whole class to see. I remember feeling so humiliated. I felt like I would never be good enough.
Somehow I muddled through, because under the spring report, it states, “Kathleen has shown great improvement and should be able to go to a slow second. Has improved in math the most. Sheer determination has helped her.”
The most damning statement was, “Her biggest problem is remembering directions for more than 2 minutes.” Oh my, I have laughed at that many times! I was a goldfish!
By second grade I was reading at a 4th grade level, and I adored Miss Smith. I was winning penmanship contests, and my self-esteem was awesome. So what happened between the summer of 1970 and fall of 1970? Did I just finally mature when I turned seven? Was it the change of teachers?
Maybe I wasn’t developmentally ready for first grade (In my parent’s defense, they tried to get me in a “Junior First” class, but it was full of other immature kids). Perhaps being born prematurely made me a slow learner? I think the most revealing answer came from Mrs. Powell herself when she said, “Sheer determination has helped her.”
Forty-six years later, and I still stink at math (algebra in particular). I do not read carefully. I’m not quiet and shy, and I don’t usually shout out inappropriately anymore. My dad liked my blog, which is nice, but not at all necessary for me to keep on with writing.
I’m grateful that Mrs. Powell called me “determined”. It’s a great thing to be.