When I was a child in the early years of grade school, I was quickly labeled as a "slow learner." In fact, my kindergarten teacher wanted to hold me back a year, but my mother refused. I remember seeing her face as she emphatically told Mrs. Johnson, "She is ready. We are not holding her back."
I didn't quite understand what was going on, and actually thought it would be lovely to stay in Mrs. Johnson's room. She was a very kind, nurturing teacher who had a "grandmother-like" quality to her. I loved getting hugs from her. In any case, I made the move into first grade at the age of 5. Yes, I was young. My birthday was actually five weeks before the December 1st cut off date though. Still, I started first grade as a 5 year old, and yes, I had peers who were up to 1 1/2 years older than me.
As I reflect on that using my adult perspective, I think that I should have been held back. Essentially, I was immediately put at an age disadvantage in first grade. I often wonder if I had stayed another year in "warm and fuzzy" kindergarten, would I have received the "slow learner" designation? I'll never know, but what I do know is that my early start to learning helped shaped some of my misguided notion that I'm not intelligent.
Reading and writing came very (is there a way to stretch that word out?) slowly for me. In third grade, I finally got it. Before then, I remember taking my dad's paper back novels and reading the word "the" over and over again because it was a word that I could read. It made me feel good to know I could read it, and often times, I underlined the word "the" over and over again in Dad's novels.
In any case, I was often a child who was in her own world. It took me several years to understand that I was a "slow learner." Fortunately for me, my kindergarten teacher had recommended a private school which had specialized education. Upon enrolling in Saint Bernard's school, I was given an individually guided education plan. This plan allowed me to learn at my own pace in my own time. I thrived in that until the school dropped the format. Then, and only then, did I realize that I was dumb, stupid, slow, or whatever pigeon-hole in which my classmates placed me.
It was a harsh realization. Thank God I received a teacher in the seventh grade who saw something in me. Miss Reeseman noticed that I could "express myself." I was confused by what that meant, and often times, I was lost when she would force me to designate a piece of writing as literal or interpretive and then prove my hypothesis. I struggled and struggled with it, but she kept pushing and pushing and pushing me. "I know you can do this, Jenny. You can express yourself." She even made me enter a local writing competition, and low and behold, I won. The Daughters of the American Revolution loved my essay on the Statue of Liberty. My Grandpa 'Mood was so proud that I won too. "Darlin' did you know that you could be a member of the DAR?"
Miss Reeseman discovered my writing abilities, and as I grew up in high school, I began to take more and more writing classes. Grammar became my friend. Well, sort of.
I earned a specialized degree in journalism in college, and then promptly started writing my heart out as a professional technical writer for a financial services company. Somewhere in leaving college and beginning my work life, I lost creative writing. I don't know why. I guess it was all those exciting user manuals and online help I was writing. LOL
Then in 2004, my daughter Meghan was born 13 weeks too soon. I began my first web journal to document the comings and goings of Meghan's life in NICU. I painstakingly began to document what was happening to her because it was all that I could do while others saved her life. In those early "blogging" days, I began to let little bits and pieces of me come out in those posts. It was a freeing experience. Writing was cathartic.
Soon, I decided to create a different Caringbridge page where I would write about the girls' journey with Alpha-1. That too brought out more and more of my own observations while documenting the achievements and milestones of Grace and Meghan. Eventually, I started this blog, and now I feel very much at home here in my little corner of cyberspace.
This weekend, someone asked me why I blog. "You write all that stuff for strangers." My first thought was that this person should read my blog to understand. My answer was this:
I blog to be creative, to feel a part of a larger world, to make myself feel better. Writing is a part of me. I cannot separate it from myself. It is an integral part of me and my self-esteem.
Thanks Miss Reeseman. I'll never forget the gigantic impact you made on my life even though I did forget your first name.