There was a young man who grew up in the backwoods and as his years lengthened, he was sent to school. At first, school was fun to him. He enjoyed being around those children his own age and found great excitement on the playground. Little by little all of this soon was to change.
This young kid, could not seem to catch on to reading or to writing or to ‘rithmetic. When the teacher would try to get him to read it seemed that the words were gibberish. When he was asked to write his name, there in the characteristic scrawl of a first-grader, came the letters Y-M-O-T. Ymot. So it was that Tommy soon became christened Ymot by all of the kids in the class. On the playground, “Ymot, throw the ball.” “Ymot, catch the ball.” “Ymot, hand me the jump rope.” Because that Ymot was so humiliated by his lack of understanding in the classroom, he reverted to becoming very inattentive in class. Losing interest in his class work, he would turn into a disciplinary nightmare. He would be sent to the hall to sit in the chair. In fact his first two years of school, he spent more time in the chair in the hall than he did at his desk. It became known as Ymot’s Chair. The teacher, when correcting other children, would send them to the hall to sit in “Ymot’s Chair.” This humiliation continued in the mind of this child until he began to feel worthless. There were numerous days that he was ordered to stay in at recess to clean up the cloak-room and to sweep the floor and to empty the ashes of the pot-bellied stove. He almost dreaded recess.
At the end of his second grade year, the teacher sent home a letter to Ymot’s family. It was even addressed not to Tommy’s parents but to Ymot’s parents. The effect of the letter was that Ymot would not be allowed to attend school the following year because he was unteachable. Therefore, keep him at home. Use him in the fields and in the barn because that is all he is good for. But there was just one problem with the letter, Ymot could not read and neither could his parents.
So with the school year beginning, Ymot traipsed back to the little schoolhouse. Out of frustration, his teachers had merely passed him despite his inabilities to learn. The third grade school teacher was an old spinster. She dressed in long black dresses with high collars. She wore tie up black shoes that went from toes to mid-calf. Stern, authoritative, and old maid. But there was one thing that separated her from Ymot’s earlier teachers. She had an incredible love for children.
On Ymot’s first day, when the children were told to write their names on the top of their papers, Ymot’s heart sank. He labored again with his first grade scrawl Y-M-O-T. The old spinster was walking around the room as the children were writing and she noticed this third-grader writing backwards. She understood that he was dyslexic. So with a gentle smile and a pat on his hand, she told him to stay in at recess. Tears welled in Ymot’s eyes, it couldn’t be, it was just the first day of school, and he would have to stay in at recess.
At recess, he silently waited in his desk. The teacher walked up to his desk and sat down in the one in front of his. She looked deeply into his little eyes and said, “Tommy, you have one of the most brilliant minds of any child that I have ever seen.” Tommy was astonished. Here was someone who really cared about him. Someone who would call him Tommy. Without that, Tommy’s entire educational process turned into a new direction.
There were at least a couple of days every week that Tommy would spend during that third grade year inside at recess with this elementary teacher. It was over a process of time that she taught this young man that his disadvantage could work to his advantage. From his fourth grade year all the way through the college years, Tommy never made anything but A’s and B’s. (Told by Paul Harvey – Saturday Edition)
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