By ice rivers
During my Parsells Avenue days, my playmates regarded me as the smartest kid on the block which I knew was far from true. That erroneous regard was based upon reading and spelling skills. I had only one challenger and that was my next door neighbor Cathy. In second grade, my classmates would always request that I did the reading in the class. They preferred my reading even to the teacher 's because I read with so much "expression". I got used to being the main reader in our class until one day Sister Agnita called on Cathy to read. Cathy stepped up and read with expression, pronunciation and accuracy. I enjoyed her reading as well. Over the next few weeks Cathy and I were equally called upon to read. We were the bluebirds.
Then one day, Sister Agnita brought a children's magazine to school. Up to that point, our reading had all been done from the infamous Dick and Jame reading primers and we read them in the order that they were presented in the book. Sister called on Cathy to read new material from the children's book.
Cathy was silent as if she didn't hear the teacher's request.
The teacher repeated her invitation. Cathy repeated her silence but added a discernible blush. Sister repeated her request. Cathy repeated her silence but this time added tears. The teacher called on me. I read the story no problem.
Cathy was never called on again and eventually left the bluebird nest. One day in her backyard, she explained her silence to me. Cathy couldn't read. Her mother, competitive with my mother, had heard about my reading success and became determined that Cathy would shut me down. Cathy was forced to memorize the reading assignments that we had each night for homework.
Cathy's reading was rote memory and recitation.
I couldn't imagine how difficult it must have been for Cathy to memorize all that stuff every night and be ready to recite and lie the next day in such a way as to reveal that she couldn't read a lick.
I liked Cathy. She was a friend of mine and a playmate. I hated to see her get humiliated and lose all of her self-confidence. Cathy's was the first humiliation that I remember seeing in school. I would see many others as a school boy and hear of many others when I became a teacher. I hated them. I felt sorry for the humiliatee. Moments like this were the beginnings of my teacher education. I learned the basic must to avoids in teaching. Humiliating a student being close to the top of the list. I vowed to become a teacher and NEVER humiliate a student. This came in handy when I ran into Laird, my first dyslexic student. As soon as I realized his discomfort, I made a point of talking to him. He explained the problem to me tearfully and I tearfully began to understand. Laird taught me for the rest of the year and forever.
Cathy moved from Parsells Avenue a few years after the incident. Maybe she became an actress. She would have been good at that if she had the confidence. I never saw or heard from her again.
My reputation as a "smart" kid in the neighborhood hood grew at Cathy's expense,
I knew better.