Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Cute, isn't he? Lol.....I wish.

Before I started school, I begged my parents to teach me to read. They wouldn't. They taught me all the letters and numbers as required, but they wouldn't teach me to read. I was desperate to learn. The school of thought at that time, was not to teach your kids to read before they went to school as they would end up ahead of their peers and that would lead to grade skipping and that would lead to social problems etc. So I was told, "You'll learn to read when you start school". Of course I was eager to start.

My first day of school I was pretty excited. Today was the day I was going to learn to read. I came home after school very upset. I declared that I wasn't going back the next day. My mom asked why. "Because they didn't teach me how to read", was my reply. I was very annoyed.

It should not have been a surprise to my parents that I was so angry. After all, when trying to teach me how to tell time (at the age of 3), I could not be convinced that the part of the clock with the numbers on it was called the "face" of the clock. "That's not a face!!" And when they weren't looking, in my frustration, I took the clock apart, took the cardboard face off it, and tore it into little pieces. I can't imagine why my parents didn't have me in therapy fearing their darling little girl (and I was ) wasn't going to be a homicidal maniac.

Back to learning how to read. Somehow my mother convinced me to go back to school the next day. Of course I soaked it up like the little sponge I was. Pretty soon I had read all of the books in the class and was going to the school library by myself to get more. One day I found a shelf containing Babar the Elephant books. Wow! I had heard other kids talk about these books and the character so I was pretty excited. I took one off the shelf and opened it up. But I couldn't read it!! It wasn't printed in type like other books. The type was in script. Long hand!! I took the book to the librarian and asked her why the book was like that. She didn't really have an answer for me except to say that those books were for older students. "You mean they can read this?" I asked, incredulous that anyone could make out words in what appeared to be scribbling." What grade do I have to be in to read this?" I asked. "Grade 3 or 4"' she told me. I was beyond taking my frustration out on inanimate objects, so instead of tearing the book into little pieces, I carefully put it back where I got it and vowed to myself that even when I did learn how to read cursive writing I would NEVER read a Babar the Elephant book. Ever. How DARE they put a book in the library that I couldn't read. It wasn't that I wasn't allowed. But it had been deliberately set in a type that I wasn't going to be taught until 2 or 3 years later. Why would they want to put that type of a book in the library if half the student population couldn't read it? I didn't understand. It was like putting a bowl of candy in front of a child and saying they could have some in 2 or 3 years, but not before.

Fast forward to grade 10. After struggling with absolute idiots for classmates, with a few exceptions, for two years in junior high and daily verbal and mental abuse (and the occasional slap) from bullies at school, I was in high school with a select few classmates in Advanced Math, English, and History. Finally, I could get back to what I enjoyed about school-learning. And with other students who wanted to learn, rather than goof off. But I hit a brick wall in math for the first time in my life. For two months I laboured over that subject, just not getting it. I was frustrated. My parents were frustrated. My teacher, Mr. Lyne, was frustrated (more on him in another post as he was and still is one of the best teachers I ever had). And then one day at school, Mr. Lyne was at the front of the class, explaining something when suddenly the entire room lit up with the light bulb that turned on over my head. He stopped mid sentence when he saw the smoke coming out of my ears and my mouth twitching in anticipation of blurting out the rest of the explanation. I still remember him bending slightly at the waist towards me, encouraging me to speak, and the smile on his face getting wider and wider as I did. When I was done, he and the other students in class cheered. I was thrilled beyond belief. It was like I had just discovered a cure for cancer. I finally got it! I loved that feeling, and it propelled me to learn more to get that feeling over and over again.

Last year, the Wookie and I were talking about Quantum Physics. Really. Actually, the Wookie was trying to explain it to me, or at least one aspect of it. I was following pretty closely, I thought, but didn't reach the same conclusion as he did. We checked something out on the net, a demonstration that came out the way he said it would. "But it shouldn't do that!!" I exclaimed in my naive way of believing in the basic laws of physics as I understood them. "But it does", was his reply. "But it shouldn't!!" was my brilliant response. "That's just so wrong!!" I insisted, much like my friend Lana said when we went to see The Ring and the little you-know-who did you-know-what(I don't want to spoil the ending if you haven't seen the movie). There was a shaking of the earth as my understanding of the laws of physics was completely shattered. I am still frustrated with my apparent inability to understand quantum physics and time travel (I insist you can't time travel).

Over the years I have continued to read and learn and get frustrated. To this day, I have never read a Babar the Elephant book, even though they are now printed with regular type - I checked. But I have come to accept that there are things I will never come to understand. Like leg warmers as fashion. Like Quantum Physics. Or World Wars and genocides. Or multiple sclerosis. Believe me, for the past ten years I have been reading and studying and asking questions. Yes, "We're working on it" is getting pretty tiresome to hear, and yes, I'm getting really frustrated, like you probably. What do I do? Tear something up? Punch a hole in the wall? Refuse to participate in something? This is one situation over which I have little control. So I give over control to the doctors and scientists who are working on the problem. And I offer my body to be poked and prodded and scanned and my PR skills to raise awareness and money for the cause.

Next Monday I will be meeting with my neuro, Dr. Murray, and one of the clinic nurses, Judith, to review my MRIs from the study I've been in for 10 years. One of the questions I will be asking the good doctor is "Are you frustrated, too?"



mdmhvonpa said...

Heh ... some of the most wonderful things in life include that 'AH-HAH!' moment ... especially in the children.

Diane J Standiford said...

My neuros have told me they are frustrated. MS is a great mystery that one day a researcher will have an AH-HAH moment...I think not soon, yet when JFK said he would put a man on the moon, people laughed...he did it. If Bill Gates kid had MS, we would find the cure. My mom read to me soon afer I was born, by 1st grade, I was reading at 6th grade level, by 6th grade at 12th grade level; my family is a firm believer in reading to children early. I was never bullied, public schools; I DID get bored a lot. I skipped school a lot.

Nervus Rex said...

Very good post, Shauna. I wish that I could be verbally flowing this time of night (returning from work and my brain is, literally, fried).

You make me miss school days!

I loved what you said at the end of your post about leaving things in the right hands and offering what you can... thank you :)

the other Shawna

Shauna said...

I also enjoy wtching other people have those light bulb moments. I taught adults for several years as a volunteer tutor and they also have brilliant moments. It's fun.

My folks read to me constantly as well. And once I was reading was soon way beyond my age level. It was recommended to my folks many times to let me skip a grade (thankfully, that didn't happen until I was in Grade 11-another story).

Thank you. I'm normally toast at that time of day, as well, but sometimes I get inspired.