Education/teacher


With the exception of kindergarten and my undergrad years, I attended Catholic schools my entire life. Religion. Religion. Religion. Even in university, I fulfilled my humanities requirements with religion classes. As a result, I am pretty well grounded in the ideas that motivate a lot of conservatives.

In the Canadian province where I live, the government turned over from 40 plus years of conservative rule to a social democratic government a few years ago. One would have thought – given the wailing and gnashing of teeth – that end times were upon us. The concern came from a somewhat genuine place as the province was sliding rapidly into an economic downturn that pounded the province financially and conservatives, being who they are, never feel safe even in good times with “lefties” at the wheel, so the angst was raging at eleven most of those early days.

But, the new provincial government went with the tested and true method of taking on some debt and not drastically cutting anything and now, nearly three years on, things are really looking up.

Looking up is never a good thing for conservative parties who are out of power. They don’t have much to offer citizens in good times. So, they fall back on what they do best – social issues. And understand, when I say “do best”, I don’t mean they are offering great ideas. I mean they are incredibly efficient at stirring up bitterness, bigotry and outrage because say what you will, those things absolutely work with the disenfranchised, ill-formed and people who get all their talking points from a pulpit.

Where I come from in the US Midwest, and was a teacher for many years, curriculum updates are normal and slightly boring for non-educational wonks. They are undertaken at regular intervals to little fanfare.

Here, they are seen in the farther reaches of conservative-land as communist agendas made flesh. Zombie flesh that will devour the souls of good little future conservatives by distorting the cold hard facts of life with unicorns, rainbows and puppies. Children who might have entered a solid trade are rendered useless university students by a social studies curriculum that doesn’t spend significant man hours on Bahamian British troops sacking the White House during the War of 1812 or the importance of Canadian soldiers being used by the British as cannon fodder at Paschendale. Important factoids, don’t misunderstand, but less important than children understanding that we live on treaty land, our obligations as a society and how our parliamentarian system works and what our Charter Rights actually are and how they differentiate us from our southern neighbor.

The feeling among the “concerned” conservatives is that the provincial government is using the curriculum update to instill thoughts and feelings in students that will keep them from voting conservative as adults. It’s brainwashing for future votes.

I attended a school system where “brainwashing” was a primary mandate. In theory, I should be a Catholic rather than an atheist and militant feminist, so anecdotally, I roll my eyes a bit. Even my school mates who still consider themselves Catholic are cafeteria at best. Having gone to  agenda laden Catholic grade school and high school, I am super dubious about the brainwashing potential of social studies or science.

When I look back, I can pinpoint the moment I began to doubt and my usefulness as a future member of the Women’s Conservative Auxillary probably ended. It was grade two. I announced I wanted to be a priest. I was told, “But you’re just a girl, so you can’t.”

The beginning of the end.

We like to believe children are blank slates, and what fills them up is what we actively write on them, but that isn’t true.

My Dad sent me to a Catholic school because he wanted me to be a conservative really. Like he was. But if he’d truly wanted that, he’d have lived a conservative life and been more aware that he really wasn’t as conservative as he thought he was and with his own upbringing, never really stood a chance at being one anyway.

Yes, he was a sexist and voted against the ERA. He was hurt by my anger when I found that out because he never  thought that his vote would impact me because he raised three daughters to be independent and able to take care of themselves. He never told us we couldn’t do things because we were girls. He expected us to do well in school. In math. He didn’t think we needed to marry and never offered his opinion on our dating or living arrangements. He thought in his Depression Era influenced way that this was enough.

He taught me the basics of politics during the Watergate crisis, and when I was 12 and wanted to volunteer at Jimmy Carter’s campaign headquarters in our town, he drove me there. He was proud as hell of me. When Carter won, he assured me that my volunteering had mattered in that win.

Dad was a democratic socialist by actions. He believed we had a duty to our communities via taxes and volunteering. He helped found the first credit union in our city. He was on the board of directors for 40 years, and I remember going along with him when he went to talk with people who’d fallen behind on their loan payments. He was helpful and understanding. His family was wiped out during the tulmultous years leading up to the Depression. His baby sister died in childbirth because they couldn’t afford a hospital birth and they grew up shuffling from one relatives farm to another. Charity cases. He understood being that poor, and what a credit union represented to people and could do for them.

He sent me to a Catholic school believing that it would teach me to be a Christ like person and conservative. In school I heard one thing and watched the nuns and priests be something else.

And all the while I had a front-row seat for hypocrisy in school, I had a Dad who volunteered for church groups, pray lines, tutoring at the alternative high school, Meals on Wheels, read the newspaper from front to back to stay informed and modeled a commitment to casting his ballot in every election long after he stopped believing in partisan politics because he believed his vote could add up with others and matter. Not every time but enough times to make a difference over the long haul.

If a person is worried that their child might not grow up to think, behave or vote in ways they’d prefer they didn’t, it’s not the schools they showed be worried about.

Dad could never figure out why I wasn’t conservative  but of course I wasn’t because he didn’t raise me to be.

Schools don’t raise children. Parents do.


I am reminded recently that April is Poetry Month. When I was still teaching public school, I knew all the various, and somewhat useless, monthly designations. There was usually more than one, and months could be so weighted down, it’s a wonder they progressed one to the next at all.

Poetry was my least favorite subject to teach but being an English teacher, I was obliged and the grade sevens that I taught were giddy whenever I steeled myself enough to endure more than a few days of it in a row.

Age as not modified much my indifference to poetry, but in keeping with the month, I will share this little gem that I stumbled across in a vain search for some bit of rhyme that didn’t render me even more indifferent:


Teacher

Teacher (Photo credit: tim ellis)

When I moved up to Canada from the United States, I had a vague plan of someday returning to my teaching career. The effort required to flip my Iowa credentials and obtain a license to teach in Alberta, while time-consuming and somewhat mindlessly strewn with the odd hoops, wasn’t onerous.

But that was nearly five years ago. Observing my daughter’s Canadian public education, I don’t see many differences between Alberta specifically, or Canada in general, in terms of the delivery mode or the education machine. The government at the provincial and federal levels are indifferent to the true purpose of public education. They treat the enterprise as an afterthought in terms of funding and seem disinclined to following the lead of truly progressive education leader countries like Finland or South Korea. Parents, by and large, look at school here the same way they do in the states. First, its cheap daycare and second, it’s fine as is. Raising taxes to provide better services, or heavens forbid, decent wages/benefits for educators is universally regarded as unnecessary. Unless the yearly budget cut axe falls on their child’s school and then it’s the fault of government for not allocating properly.

The school year is riddled with pointless days off dubbed “professional development”, but in reality are just busy work days filled with oddly planned workshops or presentations that more often than not have nothing to do with what teachers or students really need. The year has been stretched to the point where summer (which is in short supply anyway up here) has shrunk to a point that it’s in danger of disappearing completely.

There isn’t quite the widespread disdain for the teaching profession here that there is in the United States, but I have been privy to more than one acidic conversation between mothers where all the old tropes about teachers having too cushy an existence have been trotted out and sagely agreed upon.

My Iowa license expires at the end of the year. If I want to preserve it in any way, I have to do something like yesterday to make it happen.

“You don’t want to go back to teaching,” Rob pointed out when I brought up the license thing again. “There are other jobs in the world. You can do anything, you know.”

And while it’s wonderful he thinks so that’s not quite the reality. I can’t do nails, for instance, nor can I keep books or operate a forklift. Most of the growth industry up here right now surrounds the tar sands. Heavy physical labour. Specific operational skill sets. Brutal shift work. Travel.

“They have an opening at my plant,” Rob told me recently. “How do you feel about data collecting and aggregating?”

As he read me the description, I am sure he could feel my entire brain glazing over.

“Well,” he conceded, “maybe not.”

My dream job has come open once a year at the city’s small museum. I nearly applied last summer but Dee was still a bit too small to do the latch key kid thing. It will be just my luck if the job doesn’t come open this coming fall and even if it does, I know I am vastly overqualified because they are really looking for university students to fill it. It’s teaching, sort of. The museum has an educational history program for the grade four’s and five’s. The position was helping set up and train the volunteers and provide on site supervision. Curriculum, training and kid wrangling. Any one of those things I can do in my sleep after twenty years as a middle and high school teacher.

And it’s history!

I love history. I should have been a history teacher but they are a dime a dozen in the States because coaches need jobs to justify their being kept on. I can count on one hand the number of Social Studies teachers I knew who weren’t male and who didn’t coach a sport. The only other teaching position that was more coach/man heavy was physical education.

Now that I am contracting with the city to teach yoga, I have a few actual contacts, but the job needs to come up again. But that’s another post for another day.

Today is about not going back to the public school classroom. I haven’t quite been able to find the right words to explain it. Sure, there is the general teacher hate and disdain for the profession, but there is also the reality of what it means to go back and do the job.

People don’t really get what a teacher actually does and why it is such stinking hard work. A writer/blogger friend of mine recently ventured back into the classroom and wrote an excellent post explaining what I have not been able to quantify for myself:

I have been spending nine to ten hours at the school each day, not because I am being paid to do that but because that is what I needed to do to get a handle on the job, the classroom, and the curriculum.

And, like so many years ago, it makes no difference. I can wear myself out, but it doesn’t matter. I wanted things to be different but they are not.

So I will go into school later, come home earlier, and take better care of myself. This is just a job.

I want it to be more, but it’s not.

This is why I didn’t want to go back to teaching.

And of course, she is totally correct. Nothing about doing the job has changed since 1987, the year I went into the classroom for the first time. Parents are still parents. Sometimes helpful but mostly in the way. Children are still children. Whether they are ten or 13 or 17, what makes a child a child is the same as it always was. Properly raised children are still a joy to teach and badly raised ones are still mighty pains in the ass and obstructions to other children’s learning. Administrators are strong and hands off, trusting that the teacher is competent and providing whatever back up they can, or they are micro-managing brown-nosers whose main concern is the next rung up the ladder.

Sure, there is a bit of play in the grey areas. Where human nature is concerned, there is never really pitch black or snow-white. But mostly, teaching is a job and when that happens – you are done.

And I am done. My last stint was helping drop-outs retrieve credits in order to graduate. They were petty criminals, gang members and misfits. Some were pregnant and entangled with bad boy baby daddies. Some were addicted to drugs and unable to get through an entire day without slipping off to a nearby park to smoke a bit of weed. Some just didn’t fit because their strong personalities and native wit made it difficult for them to just “play the game” and get out. I battled counselors, vice-principals. my own colleagues and even the kids themselves in an effort to do my job. I did it well. But it was just a job. I resented the added work. I was tired of the games I needed to play in order to do it. It was soul killing.

“I should get a job,” I told Rob, during our most recent discussion about my going back to work.”You shouldn’t be the only one slogging off to a soul killing job everyday.”

“The difference is,” he replied, “is that I am paid handsomely to have my soul crushed.”

Teaching is not a handsome financial opportunity to be sure.

So, I will teach yoga. I will write. I will “house keep”. Maybe I will snag that sweet little museum job in the fall. But the door on public school teaching is now officially closed. I have left that building.


Kobo eReader

Image by ndh via Flickr

I have an eReader now, a gift from Edie and Mick.  It tells me it can store a thousand books all by itself. Should I care to purchase it a Micro SD card, it will happily store 30,000 tomes.  So much for my room lined floor-to-ceiling with books I’d need a wheeled ladder to peruse.

When I was first teaching reading in the middle school, it was vogue to use incentives to prod the children to “free” read.  Free reading was whatever books the children read outside of class or during the silent reading periods during home room.  The lures mainly centered on candy, but we gave them pencils, junk toys of a Happy Meal nature and even tempted them to read as a collective and then rewarded entire classes with pizza parties.  Incentives, or bribery as it is more commonly known in parenting terminology, had limited life spans.  Children quickly tire of toiling for trinkets. Even the most eager student eventually reaches saturation.

But imagine my amusement when I discovered that eReaders offer incentives to adults to read more.

At the bottom of the reader’s screen, a note periodically pops up informing me I have an award I can claim and post to FaceBook. Normally, I tap a finger, which makes it disappear and I continue reading, but last night, I decided to investigate what constitutes an award by Kobo eReader standards.

The award has popped up before and is called The PrimeTime Award. When I opened it, I found this message:

Your television must be lonely because this is the fifth time you’ve read during primetime!

I didn’t know whether to laugh or fear for humanity.

For the record, once again, we don’t have cable, satellite or … until Edie gave her father a six month subscription as a Christmas gift … Netflix. We are strictly a dvd family, and even then, Rob and I return more unwatched movies to the bookmobile than not.

The once and never again reading teacher in me finds turnabout hilarious, but the literate adult sighs.  Knowing full well, as I do, that most people would rather do anything else but read, I can’t claim surprise that even eReaders must prod and cajole.  It’s hardly a sign of the coming apocalypse.  Not like Rick Santorum surging in the Iowa Caucuses is a harbinger of evil.  It’s a smaller and more subtle sign of civilization’s continuing quest against complete idiocracy.  But heavy sigh.  Just heavy sigh.


The Macintosh 128K was the first commercially ...

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I can’t say that my first exposure to the computer found me instantly smitten. I didn’t even know what it was and, looking back, it was amazing that my dirt poor Catholic grade school even had a computer that students were allowed to use. Not that we used it for much. The only thing I can recall doing with it was playing one of the lame original versions of The Oregon Trail. I can’t recall if we were supposed to actually learn something from the experience but, periodically, small groups of us would be sent to the small office behind the main office, where the sacred computer was housed, to “play” this game. Perhaps it was a teamwork thing?

No matter. I didn’t love computers at that point. With their dot matrix print and slower than blobs of spit drying on the pavement processing, they lacked even the basic personality of their fake television and movie counterparts. As far as I was concerned, even that most boring of video games – Pong … or Ping? was more interesting and I use the term “interesting” quite loosely, even for me.

There were computers at university. I have vivid memories of the Math Lab and playing endless rounds of games that were supposed to help me learn algebra. The tutors were so confident when they assigned them to me and so deflated when they realized that they were simply going to have to teach me math the hard way – by actually tutoring me.

I did not learn to love computers then.

My first brush with word processing was on an Apple II during my student teaching at Northwest Junior High in Iowa City. They had a computer lab with computers;  thirty-five of them. Enough to take an entire Language Arts class at once. I would never have such a thing again in twenty years of teaching, by the way, which is more sad than I can tell you.

The program was FredWriter, an open source version of AppleWorks. Already possessing competent typing skills, thanks to dear Sr. Deborah back at Wahlert High School, word processing unleashed me, freeing me from my own bad spelling and typos with the ease of backspacing.

From there it was the Apple IIe and the Macintosh’s.

Not a single teacher at Hoyt Middle School in Des Moines wanted the Mac Classic when we were finally alloted our five. Five. That’s it for a school with close to 700 kids in it and 35+ staff members. The principal had to actually beg people to take one and try it out.

Not me.

“Give my a printer,” I said, “And I’ll figure out how to put it to use.”

Between my Mac and a small writing lab with about 10 IIe’s, I taught every single kid who came through my classroom in the next three years how to use a word processing program. This was years before we had Computer teachers and well before English teachers began to stop regarding spell check as something evil and anti-dictionary.

Sadly, the first computer I owned was an IBM. Apple had a program for teachers to buy computers from them but they wanted over $1000 more than IBM was asking for a similar package. PC’s, I soon discovered, mostly suck. They don’t make sense. They assume that one cares about why they function and the programming that makes the function happen. Which is incorrect. The majority of computer users want the computer to perform. The DOS of it is beside the point

Sometime in the late 90’s, my school district threw over Apple for Dell. And Windows.

And I coped.

Learned just what I had to in order to do the things I wanted and needed to do, and missed Apple and Mac’s.

I didn’t own another Apple product until 2005 when their store arrived at the nearby mega-ish mall. I bought the cheapest computer they had – a cumbersome eMac which, in spite of its ungainly size and retro appearance, did everything a Mac should do. Work. Without my needing to know or care why.

Two iPod’s later – and really, the iPod saved my sanity – I finally had the capital to purchase my beloved MacBook. Sleek. Sure. Friendly. Wonderlicious. If ee cummings had owned one, he’d have written the perfect poem about it. If Hemingway had written on it …. well, okay, he still would have come off as whiny and effeminate, so bad example.

Shakespeare would have rocked the house with a MacBook though, that I am sure of.

When Steve Jobs announced that he was taking another medical leave not long ago, I knew he would die soon. He was lucky to have lasted as long as he did, but it was folly to think that someone with that particular type of cancer can continue to beat the odds forever. The last photos of him on the web clearly showed a man with little time left. And I am not so trite as to believe that even leaving behind the legacy that he has made leaving any easier for him or his family.

But isn’t he lucky to have touched so many lives?

I think so.

Rest in some kind of peace, Steve. And thank you.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address, 2005


Child labor, can't we try to stop it?

Image via Wikipedia

“I was coming home from kindergarten–well they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later I had been working in a factory for ten years. It’s good for a kid to know how to make gloves.” – Ellen DeGeneres

It’s not just women. The Right is equally at war on American children as well. They’ve been strangling the public education system with a steady pressure and two hands around its neck for nearly a decade though the campaign itself began with the over the top alarmist Nation at Risk in 1982.

Currently, our Congress – already a year overdue at setting the budget for the current fiscal year –  paper cuts what’s left of the K-12 budget in an attempt to bleed it to death so slowly they won’t be suspected of murder when it finally keels over. As their minions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana work to destroy what little influence over educational practices and curriculum teachers have left by stripping unions of their right to provide input into the profession they’ve earned university degrees to be allowed to practice, Congress ignores the real budget issues and the public goes along with it.

“Of course you are right,” they nod sheepishly. “How foolish of us to think that it was Social Security or a bloated Pentagon at fault? It’s those greedy teachers and our free-loading children of elementary school age. They are the root of this financial nightmare that prevents us from shopping at will and ignoring public policy issues. But what to do? If not school, where can we warehouse our kids during the day while we hunt for work or pretend we love our mind-numbing, ever lower compensating jobs?”

Missouri stepped up to the plate first with a proposal to lower the age at which a child can apply for a work permit from 14 to 12 and eliminate the need for 15 year olds to have a work permit at all. At fifteen, one is certainly old enough to work at will.

Utah followed with an inane state’s rights ploy* that doesn’t question the awfulness of child labor, just the federal government’s right to forbid it.

The states should be able to decide for themselves**.

Really.

A state like Michigan, perhaps? Where the Governor is asking for the right to declare martial law and replace duly elected school boards, city/town councils with anyone he deems fit – whether that be his out of work brother-in-law or some shill of the Koch brothers?

Do you trust the states to act in the best interest of the people or themselves and those who bought them their jobs through campaign contributions?

In other parts of the world, where women have no rights and children are sent to work instead of school (when they are not being sold outright into some form of slavery) and governments pretend to hold elections but the people are not actually represented – we, the self-righteous people of America – point an accusatory finger and say “Bad totalitarian regime.”

Did anyone ever notice that only one finger points and every other is waving back at us?

*Let’s not forget the states were just fine with slavery, Jim Crow, rules that forbade a married women from having her own bank account as late as the 1950’s and weren’t as keen on ERA as they were for the incredibly unnecessary amendment to forbid flag-burning. The states also are big on the whole idea that women need to be treated as though they are retarded once they are pregnant. Let’s not place too much credence on their ability to do the right thing without federal incentive.

**The states will argue that they are rightly giving control back to parents. My maternal grandfather and the husband of one of my cousins were farmers and worked their kids as though they were hired hands from a young age. Not chores. These children were not just helping out a bit. They were farm laborers on par with adults. One of my cousin’s sons actually died because he was given work to do that outstripped his age and size. Even now the exceptions for agriculture border on abuse when they don’t completely cross the line. Do we want to move the line to ensnare more children?


illustrated math problem

Image by jimmiehomeschoolmom via Flickr

Dee has struggled in school since the beginning and as I have mentioned, I questioned and poked/prodded her teachers about glitches and gaps all along only to be told that “it’s normal for children her age”.

Of course, that was bullshit. Her peers didn’t struggle as mightily or as consistently as she did in certain areas. Perhaps having been a classroom teacher, it was more apparent to me than it would have been to other parents or maybe because I lived it myself as an elementary school student, the alarm bells rang louder for me. Whatever the reason, I knew from the start and her school has only just clued in and she has lost nearly four years in a battle that is going to be uphill and probably not very enjoyable.

The assessment was inclusive. The term “unusual” came up a lot because there is no real recognition of her particular learning disability. Dyslexic, autistic and the behaviorally disordered are the squeaky wheels in education. That is where the research focuses and that is where the funding flows.

Dee has dyscalculia. In layman’s terms it’s like a math based dyslexia – except it’s a bit more complicated than that. Her spatial and time sense are affected. She is hypersensitive to stimuli and has a hard time tuning extraneous noise out or filtering it for specifics. For reasons unknown, she can’t memorize formulas and committing base information to memory – like how a word is spelled, math tables, or phonic decoding skills – takes longer.

She wasn’t actually classified as having dyscalculia. Unlike the inability to read, having difficulty with math is not viewed as a big tragedy. Math is so universally loathed (because our school systems insist on teaching higher math forms to everyone despite the fact that it’s not necessary) that one is considered “normal” to be bad at math. But for Dee, it goes beyond math and one thing can’t be addressed without addressing all things.

I have dyscalculia. I discovered this inadvertently through my team teaching with special education teachers when I worked in the middle schools. Even they were only vaguely aware of the condition and didn’t have any advice for me in terms of doing something about it.

“Well,”  I was told, “you certainly managed to overcome it on your own at any rate.”

Yeah.

And that’s the problem. I had to “overcome” it on my own.

I came home from the studio last evening to find Dee at the dining room table working on a math table Rob had designed for her. She had a math test the next day and the teacher sent home a note asking that she study.

The test was word problems.

Word problems were the beginning of the end for me in school where math is concerned. As I watched her at the table, wiggling, sighing and in general being annoyed and annoying, I was cast back to the hours my dad had me anchored to the kitchen table with my math book and homework.

I did not act up because unlike Rob, my father had no patience and I was quite scared of him at that point in my life. Having watched he and my mother take after my younger brother physically, I had no doubt that this could happen to me too. So I sat, stone-faced and so focused on not crying that even if what he’d been trying to explain made even the slightest sense to me at all – I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

“Oh,” my mother reminisced when I told her about Dee, “your dad had no patience with you. He could do any math at all in his head and couldn’t understand why you couldn’t.”

She didn’t add that my failure to do well at math was a huge disappointment to him. And not one that I missed. Even now as I listened to Rob’s exasperation with Dee when he told me about his attempts to help her study, I could feel again the awfulness of wanting to understand and just not being able to. I remembered the nights I sat at the table instead of being able to watch television or play outside.

And I remembered the words that showed up on Dee’s assessment “she just needs to try harder” because “the knowledge is there”.

Except it isn’t.

I couldn’t tell time on analog clocks. I had to use my fingers to count once the big hand slipped off the hour – even now, I count minutes past the o’clock, the thirty or quarter to or past.

I can’t judge distance. I can only subtract and divide because I can add and multiply and I still don’t have the entire times table locked and solidly loaded. I have to think about it whenever numbers are concerned and I transpose addresses and phone numbers regularly.

Grades three and four were easily the worst years of my academic life (until 9th grade algebra*). Neither of my math teachers had the time to work with me one on one as class sizes regularly hit the mid-30’s. None of my peers could explain what I was doing wrong or how to fix it though they generously gave me answers in an effort to help me avoid the regular dressing down I received in front of them.

Mrs. S, my grade three teacher, had a wicked way with the sarcastic put-down. Where my Dee is small and sweet and cuddly, inspiring the tender side of her teachers, I had perfected an air of indifference that read like defiance – and maybe it was a little – and I would meet her eyes and take the insults without comment. I would have sooner stuck splinters under my fingernails than cry.

In grade four, Sister assigned her student teacher to work with me exclusively when she grew tired of my stubborn refusal to learn.

That’s how it was viewed. I was not learning on purpose. Perhaps because I enjoyed being chapters behind and wrong every time I was called on?

He worked hard but nothing much stuck.

I had done so much copying – cheating really – the year before to survive that I was determined in grade four to do the work myself. But all that resulted in was falling further and further behind everyone else. So the day after Sister had forced me to stand by her desk, facing my classmates, as she berated me and asked me if just “enjoyed being stupid”, I sat down next to my cousin Gwen and asked to copy her work.

A week later I turned in every single assignment that was missing and I failed every single test that I hadn’t yet taken. I am not sure what went through Sister’s mind and I no longer care, but I do remember she smirked when I turned in the work and didn’t look at me when she handed back the red pocked tests.

I feel as though I should be able to better help people understand what it means to have dyscalculia, but I find I am not able and I worry for Dee.

Third grade was the year that school became an endurance race, a marathon that I plodded through without joy. It was a time-suck whose rewards were endless homework, tutoring and summer school.

Of all the things she’s inherited from me, this is by far the worst gift. Even her near perpetual habit of looking at the glass as half-empty, which she got from Will, is not nearly as poor an inheritance.

Having endured the misguided perception that hard work can overcome, I am a bit downcast at the prospect of going through this again with Dee. Hard work is unavoidable, but it will do nothing except possibly help her endure. I still have dyscalculia every day of my life. I struggle to keep PIN’s and passwords straight and to follow Rob’s reasoning when it comes to investment strategies. I hope that no one realizes that I haven’t gotten their name memorized yet or matched with the right face. I am relieved when I am not asked for directions because I can’t give them using street names or that no one thinks it’s too weird that I don’t know my own cell phone number after nearly four years. The truth is that I worked hard and got to a point where some things were easy to cover up and other things? I deal. And that is all and Dee will learn to do the same, but it won’t be fast enough to suit anyone.