The following entry is written by a guest blogger, my youngest sister, Evelyn. She shares the learning disability experience with me, and is currently going to school for education reform. I asked her to write this entry to broaden the stories told here, and was thrilled when she agreed.
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I have a learning disability; I swear I’m not dumb. My mind just doesn’t work in the linear, rather I time travel.
If you see a child with dyslexia staring hard at their assignment and not making a move, it’s because they, too, time travel or are thinking about alternate realities. This helps us make connections and understand the world. For an example of true time travel please read my short story below.
A small hand around a pencil is much like a clamp anchored to a work bench. The pencil digs into the flesh of the fingers to remind the mind it’s still there. The graphite point is on a business law essay exam. Frozen—the pencil somehow turned to stone. It doesn’t want to write the word arbitration. Rather, it scribbles arbtrartiaun.
It’s wrong—it’s wrong—but what is right? Breath seems to be cut out of my lungs by dull scissors. My eyes come down like small squeaky doors attached to an old garage.
Maybe if everything goes black for me, it will go black for the professor.
Grasping the wet, fat pencil, I look down at the blank piece of paper in front of me. My hands are not sweaty. My hands are wet from popped blisters that formed on my fingers where the pencil rubbed my skin.
“Write down what you see”, the female teacher’s voice floats by me.
My eyes glued to the board, then to the paper. Squinting, straining, this doesn’t look like anything to me. This teacher must really be an expert in gibberish.
The sentence on the green board must be simple. All my classmates are finished and sit staring at each other, quietly waiting for my frozen hand to move. How do I write? Copy scribbles?
After fifteen minutes, the teacher moves on. “Now what is wrong with the sentence class? Look down at your papers and correct the work”, she directs us.
I have nothing to correct. My hand grasps the pencil harder. The open blisters burn as the pencil is inserted further into the small fingers. I continue to copy the sentence of the board. My paper does not look like anyone else’s; it has numbers and lines.
How did this happen? I copied what was on the board!
“Evelyn, what does the sentence say?” The young teacher asks me.
My body freezes, the fire in my stomach rises. My breath is gone, and tears start flowing in silence. The classroom turns into a whirlpool around me. Everyone disappears except for me. I’m sucked deeper down into isolation. My body is a statue, my heart a jackhammer trying to break the stone exterior.
“Evelyn, you’re seven years old. You should be able to read this.” Her voice is shrill and unrelenting.
My body remains frozen, fat yellow pencil in hand.
“Evelyn, Evelyn, I know you are nervous, but there is a football game on if fifteen. Please hurry up and finish the test.” The professor’s eyebrows rise and fall, as if the wrinkles are puppeteers for the marionette eyebrows. Watching his wrinkles dance brings me back into the present.
“Sorry sir, I just need to make sure the spelling on the last page is right.” My stammering continues to make me realized I traveled again. Grasping my sweating yellow pencil, I realize the blisters are no longer there. “Sir, if I ask you how to spell something, will I get points off the test?”
“No, if it hurries you up I’ll give you more points”, he seems entertained by the promise of the last student to leave.
Words quiver out of my hot throat, “Sir, how many points? I still have half an hour of class time to use. If it’s not worth at least five points I’m unwilling to ask”.
“Yes, I will give you an extra five points for negotiating with me over this word! What is it?” His voice is shrill with discomfort.
Butterflies flutter through my stomach as the stale flavor of coffee reappears in my mouth. “Sir, I know this is not a statute of frauds situation, but I need your signature to confirm you agree to give me the points.” My hand scribbles our deal on the back of the test.
His head is shaking as he takes his pen to sign. His voice deepens as he looks down at my paper, “You are having trouble with the word Arbitration I see. A-R-B-I-T-R-A-T-I-O-N. But, I’m not giving extra you points for drawing the tort scene in question two, fat men falling on banana peels are easy to draw. I saw you waste ten minutes drawing instead of writing”.
My hand once clamped down is now relaxed from the burden of essays. “Sir, the hardest part of this test was the fat man slipping on a banana peel. You should change the example to a loud business guy talking on a blue tooth about how gross bananas are, or a polar bear slipping on the banana peel, setting off a Rube Goldberg effect through the store to show liability in regard to proximate cause!” The heart in my chest is racing with pleasure just thinking about polar bears and bananas.
His caterpillar eye brow and deep set wrinkles furrow. “Evelyn, turn in the test. At the end of the semester you can give your feedback on the evaluation. Also– stop calling me Sir.”
My feet gladly carry to the door without responding to him. My body is jelly after taking a two hour test.
“Evelyn,” he calls after me with a hint of vibrato in his voice. “How did the polar bear get in a grocery store?”
Without turning my thoughts echoed into speech as I walked out the door, “Sir it’s your job to write the test, and mine to take it and complain.”
Looking back I knew I would get an A on this test. That isn’t normal for me.