Monday, August 17, 2009


I learned to read when I was four.

The local paper used to have a section called the Green Sheet, which contained comics and the daily Jumble and crossword puzzles. The story goes that I was perusing the Green Sheet with my Grandma one afternoon when I suddenly began reading the page out loud and never stopped.

I'm not entirely convinced it actually happened that way, but I do remember reading the headline myself when Michael Jackson's hair caught fire. I was in kindergarten and the teacher had brought in the paper - I remember sitting in our circle on the floor and reading the words out loud before she could settle us in our seats. I caught the look of death for talking out of turn.

I remember thinking the Letter People were absolutely the stupidest thing on the face of the planet. I was bored with coloring in Mr. M and his munchy mouth - at home I was already reading books that didn't have pictures on every page. I also lost more teeth that year than any of the other kids and for some reason that made me very proud.

But first grade was where the awkwardness really set in. Cuz, see, I was sent to a small parochial school that wasn't really prepared to deal with kids who already knew how to read. They were just going to take us through the letter people...AGAIN.

So they did what any good school would do - they sent the problem away. I was to spend Reading class with the second graders.


For an hour each day, I trekked down the hall to the second grade classroom. Every day, all conversation would cease as I entered the room and took a seat toward the back. All eyes were on me until the teacher sighed loudly at my distraction and could divert the class's attention back to the front so she could gave her commands. It was clear, without anyone have to say it out loud, that they thought I was simply trying to look superior. I just felt like a weirdo.

Weirdo or not, I quickly showed that crabby-assed teacher that second grade books were below my reading level as well. Instead of working on projects with the rest of the class, I was again singled out. In the back of that classroom, I was given a workbook (with a golden retriever on the cover - I'll never forget that dog with its tongue hanging out on a green background) and told to work at my own pace.

So I did.

It was early spring when I turned in the last of those worksheets. I remember being bored with them as well. They were mostly busywork, and nothing that really was very difficult.

Then...finally...that spring I was given an assignment that I really, truly loved.

Creative writing.

The second grade class had started getting creative writing assignments a few weeks prior, but in my "one man class" status I hadn't been asked to participate. I hadn't really been paying attention to what they were doing to know if it was something I would like or not. I had put on a "don't look at them and they won't tease me" facade. Most days I wouldn't even see them in the was just me and ol' Goldie the Retriever.

But that first day I was allowed to not just read but WRITE? Oh my seemed there were so many ideas in my head and no matter what the instruction I could make up something and write about it. I couldn't believe that this was something they wanted me to do - that they were encouraging me to do.

By the end of my first grade year I had made that mean ol' teacher's eyes go as big as saucers when I turned in not one, not two, but three sheets - filled front and back - of my childish, large script (for I tried to copy the second graders' cursive even though I myself had not yet had that class). If I remember correctly that witch made me feel bad about 'overdoing it' and looking at me as if I were trying to seem important.

I couldn't help it. It just came so easily to me...writing words onto that large lined paper...that dotted blue line hovering in the middle, guiding me...easing me into writing more...



Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

Colleen, this may explain why - more than bonding over our working mom status - we have connected. I have similar experience and memories, thanks to going to school in a small town that didn't have a gifted program yet. I've always been glad (based on my friends vs. the girls in the class ahead of me) that my parents decided not to move me ahead a grade - but the being singled out and getting the "special" treatment? For the birds. Or the nerds. Maybe both.

WeaselMomma said...

can't wait for part two.......

Kim H. said...


Anxiously waiting for Part Deux.

Melisa with one S said...

I had nearly the same type of experience; I went from my kindergarten room to the second grade classroom for reading, though I did actually feel very welcome there. My school also had a reading enrichment teacher for a small group of us who were working ahead of our grade levels; we ended up being the "drama department" and put on a few plays in elementary school. :)

Can't wait to read the rest, ya little tease, you!

WackyMummy said...

Really looking forward to the Rest Of The Story. =)
You ARE a good writer and I love reading what you've got. Take care.

Roger said...

I always hated that while growing up, to the point where I cowed down to what they wanted me to do, and become average. If there was one thing I could change it would be to go back and kick my butt into shape and tell myself that it doesn't matter what other people think, including the teachers (unfortunately), because by God I had a gift, and I squandered it away.

I have never felt any regrets in my life, then I read this and, wow! Now I'm pissed off at myself and my teachers back then that held me back. Yet, I am also motivated into getting my groove back.

It's amazing the emotions I just felt by reading, and re-reading your 738 words (yes I counted). You do indeed rock!

Thank you.

Kara said...

Colleen, my story is so similar to yours it's almost scary...right down to being sent to a small parochial school in 1st grade that wasn't equipped to handle a kid who could actually READ! I, too, was set off by myself to go through the readers at my own pace...I made it into 4th grade readers by the end of the year & was bored. out. of. my. mind. I'd already read the Little House series and was working on Chronicles of Narnia at home. The next year I went to a public school with a G/T program & enjoyed it. I'm not as talented a writer as you, although I've always enjoyed writing. Love your blog!

Wineplz said...

I got picked up by a special reading teacher each day since I was so far ahead of my peers in 1st-5th grade. While I loved the time I spent with that teacher (and I'm dying a little inside because I realize I cannot remember his name), and all the extra time to be in the library, I didn't like everyone watching me leave each day during Reading. Made me feel uncomfortable, too, and there were often comments that I was leaving to get more help because I couldn't read, as opposed to the other way around. I never did challenge them on it since I was so shy and already embarrassed by the attention. I guess I was lucky that at least my teachers were nice about the whole situation--it's too bad that yours weren't at the time. :(
Sometimes it stinks being a smarty-pants.

Mrs4444 said...

I am the opposite of that teacher, thank God. I wish I had had you :)

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

Looking forward to reading the rest....Great blog..

Just had a few hours to blog hop tonight and enjoyed reading yours. I am doing a series of posts on holiday decorating, so hope you will stop by. I love making new blog friends.