A few days ago my daughter read her first book, a reader! What a HUGE accomplishment!
I reminded me of when I learned to read… unlike most people, I was in 3rd grade.
I think the first time I realized I wasn’t “like other kids” was the first day of first grade when they made me go back to kindergarten for the phonics period. I knew something was “up”. I wondered why I wasn’t able to remember things and to read like my peers. It made me feel shame and fear.
My wonderful parents took me to a lady… Ms. Bell, I think. She gave me test after test, flash card upon flash card and silly ridiculous games that made me feel like she was patronizing me. She would scowl if I got answers wrong. It made me feel horrible and made my stomach hurt. Then she would make me read using symbols like a blue dot would mean the word “the” and a red line would mean “a”… it was just all so confusing. I hated it! For some reason I didn't want to tell my parents about all this, so I dealt with it over and over from 1st-3rd grade.
After my parents saw that this just wasn’t of any value or help to me they started looking for a new tutor for me. Through some providential circumstances they learned about a man who might be able to help me… Dr. Brown. I remember very vividly the first day I met him for testing at his office. I was in 3rd grade… still could barely read and unable to compute much math. There were more flash cards and blocks and puzzles, but he also let me run down the long hall and timed me. It wasn’t so bad.
Plus, he looked like the splitting image of Abraham Lincoln and his deep echoing laugh was just like St. Nicolas! He was tall, about 60, had a beard on his chin that curled under and eyes that twinkled like they had tears of joy in them all day long. On top of his sparkly eyes there were eye brows that resembled large fuzzy caterpillars. He limped because he had had polio as a boy. He was the closest thing to St. Nicolas I’ve every seen or felt in my life. He never scowled if you got an answer wrong… in fact, he’d hug you! I am sure this isn’t a overly idyllic description of the man, if you’d known him you would completely agree.
With the help of Dr. Brown I was reading with in a few months, I was still in “special ed” at school, but after school I REALLY learned with Dr. Brown. He realized I didn’t learn like other children and told me about people like myself who initially didn’t learn well, but later went on to do great things… people like Albert Einstein. That gave me a lot of hope.
I had lots of trouble memorizing my multiplication tables, and so he taught me tricks to remembering them… one was that 24 was a "most popular” number in the times table and that it had blond curly hair and blue eyes just like me. He told me one time, that the way my teachers were teaching me to do math just didn’t work in my brain… I had a different, more special computer in my head, and I just need to learn how to use it! Plus, he talked to me like I was a person, not a child or not like I was dumb. He challenged me and because of him I learned to love challenges and perseverance. He made hard things attainable.
Dr. Brown focused on my strengths… that I was creative and loved to write and describe things. He’d let me come in and write a story for 15 minutes, then we’d work on math (blaugh!) and then he’d read me a story that he was writing (oddly enough it was about the 4 corner region). Dr. Brown was my tutor from 3rd to 9th grade… it was one of the saddest days when he told me that I “didn’t need his help any more.”
Really, I had many bad or mediocre teachers growing up… but truly it just took ONE good teacher to make a difference in my life. One I could believe and listen to for truth. Praise God he was there all through my education, undoing the poor teaching others were doing, replacing untruth for truth! That is one reason I went on to teach (and one reason I’ll home school). I didn’t want children to be scowled at when they couldn’t sound out a word and I didn’t want them to feel shame for something completely out of their control. I wanted them to feel safe and smart and challenged to be who God made them to be!
Dr. Brown was a helper of God. He loved the Lord and affected the lives of many children. God sent Dr. Brown to me when I was most in need of him. I know with out Dr. Brown I would not be who I am today.