Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bite Sized Memoir I -School At Seven


This post is part of an ongoing small-memoir project by Lisa Reiter. To read other bite-sized memoirs from the project or contribute one of your own go to

I remember learning words in phonetic groups; cat, sat, hat, mat and numbers by ones, twos and fours.

I remember standing at Miss Nancy's desk proving I could count and add together the shiny, polished stones she held in her palm correctly.

I remember too, the slow sounding out of words by her side; painfully slow, too slowly for my age.

I remember being able to form the letters with an always stubby pencil but not string them together into anything useful.

I remember watching my friends move forward through the books on the reading shelf.

I remember trying to guess the story from the pictures, desperate to connect them to the words.

I remember waiting in the hall with my parents for the teacher conference.

I remember hearing Miss Nancy explain how far behind I was, how other kids like me had learning disabilities, that they went to special ed classes.

I remember her pausing, looking at me, deciding my fate, and finally saying, "She's smart. She can do math. I think she's just waiting for something. Let's give her another year."

I remember, one year later, walking down the hall each day for reading class in the room three grades above mine, no longer waiting.


  1. Ruby, thank you for sharing this. It brought tears to my eyes. Helping in school at that age I watched kids do exactly that "I remember watching my friends move forward through the books on the reading shelf." That experience, that feeling of 'not being as good' can be destroying. I'm so glad your teacher didn't weigh you up on the one milestone and whatever you were 'waiting for' arrived in time �� Lisa xx

  2. Congratulations Ruby! Isn't it wonderful that when given the freedom to come to reading in your own time you were just swept away by it, joyfully by the sound of it. Your story powerfully demonstrates the need to allow children to do their learning in their own time and their own way. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Norah, I agree entirely. It wasn't until years later that I realized that I might have ended up with all kinds of issues about shame and self worth from that experience. Instead, I just have great memories of going to the library a lot with my dad and getting pep talks from my teacher. What a difference the right instructor can make!

  4. This makes for a beautiful story about reading and how much power a teacher has, "deciding my fate." I like the progression of this flash from learning phonetics to walking down the hall a year later.

  5. Thanks Charli. The structure is entirely as I remembered it, accidental progression, but it worked :-)

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