October. Portland. Bedtime. Annie’s room. 2018
“But I shouldn’t be in that group,” my daughter wailed over and over again.
Annie was put in remedial fourth-grade math at the start of the school year.
She hadn’t learned her times tables.
Her teacher explained that Annie could fill out the 10×10 times table like a champ.
She just didn’t understand how to multiply.
I’d seen her fill in the numbers at the intersection of each column and row.
But it was just pattern recognition!
She didn’t know the relationship between “3 x 9” and “27.”
We picked up tissues after giving her a kiss on the head, tucking her in for the night.
“Now I’m never going to get into a good college,” we heard sobbed before she fell asleep.
The Collegiate Preparatory School for Boys. (Established 1628). New Amsterdam. Interior Classroom. 1982.
Ms. Bell read the names aloud.
Something was wrong.
She read Matthew’s name in the group of “independent workers.” And my name in “remedial computer coding.”
This made no sense at all.
I was 12 years old and about to cry.
Or possibly wet myself.
I had an Apple ][. I knew how to program it. I nailed the midterm with a fanciful “n=n+1” counter nestled within an if-then statement. (It was a move so cool and inventive that I still remember it.)
There’s no way Matthew did that!
My airways strained. I tried to take in a breath.
My thoughts raced as tears welled up.
- How come I was in the remedial group?
- Why wasn’t he?
- How was this fair?
- I program better than he was.
Then. I figured it out. There was a reason. This was fair. And just.
Tears re-absorbed into wherever they came from. I don’t understand tears very well.
Here’s why Ms. Bell put me in the remedial computer coding learning group. She liked me. Because Matthew got on her nerves. And she wanted my help instructing my classmates, like a teacher’s assistant. She wanted me close to her. That’s why she put me in that group.
I spent the rest of the trimester as Ms. Bell’s teacher’s helper.
April 2019. Portland. My office. A Wednesday. mid-morning.
Zanthe, for whom I officiated a wedding to Matthew years ago, called. Their youngest daughter’s bat mitzvah was on the upcoming sabbath.
“I’m horribly embarrassed to impose on your time,” she told me. “But I simply didn’t know whom else I should have called. Matthew even said when I asked him for help, ‘Have you called Brian?’”
She needed my help with iMovie and creating a slideshow.
Matthew’s computer skills, time has proven, are not as good as mine.
“The share button looks like a box with an arrow pointing up through the roof. Let’s try exporting the slide show as a movie, re-importing it, and then changing the speed.” I walked her through the steps of synchronizing slideshow and music.
I am redeemed 35+ years later. A serving of cosmic ice-cream.
And, then, divine wisdom!
I realize, like a ton of bricks. I realize that I really did belong in the remedial programming group!
The story about Ms. Bell wanting me to help the other students. I made that up! I wasn’t in remedial because she liked me because she wanted to have me close to her. I wasn’t in her group be her teaching assistant.
The pre-test that landed me in remedial would have been better solved with a subroutine!
Shame deflected by perspective.
Portland. My office. Late afternoon. Present Day.
I need to:
- finish writing these words
- upload to WordPress as a blog post
- make catchy title
- engaging first line
- cover / featured image
- fix HTML
- create an email version
- schedule The 77% Weekly #24 to arrive in 4K+ inboxes
If you are reading these words, I did all those tasks.
But there’s more to do.
I need to:
- tend to my internalized fear of not belonging
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