In my school days, I never considered myself the “scholarly type” or the “academic sort” or even really a good student. There was, though, a certain period – in my younger days – when I was allowed to brush my prepubescent lips across the cheek of the great Goddess of Academia and I shall relay that story presently.
I wasn’t much of a learner in my early days. I was a good boy, I suppose. Yes a good boy - a good boy who liked to leave school early, sometimes under the auspices of a sudden and suspiciously short-termed sickness, sometimes not. Mostly the former. I was in the school office to call home sick often in the early days, so often that I recall that one of the kind office ladies who would often be the channel through with much of this elementary school psychosomatic cloak and dagger drama took place had a sticker on her desk that read, “A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind.” I didn’t get it then and I’m not sure I get it now. Anyway, I would usually place my sick plea calls before the noon hour for the following reasons: there was more time to make a miraculous recovery in time for playing with my friends or sisters when they returned home from prison…er school; I could have lunch at home and eat something palatable that didn't include Tater-tots as an ever-present side dish; and finally, because the cartoons on television in the afternoon were more watch-able than those that aired after 3:30. Occasionally, though, I would call my mom at around 2:45 to see if she would come pick me up and take me home. She would try to reason with me that there was only a half hour or so left of school and couldn’t I wait until the day was over. I could not be moved by such logic. I had had my fill of school that day and that was that. I was ready to go home. Besides, I knew that I had to go straight to the dreaded “day care” immediately after school, which wasn’t home, but some other halfway house parents stick you when they are off doing grown up shit.
So, my schoolwork suffered. Well, it didn’t “suffer”, per se. It got done. And it was done pretty much correctly, give or take a few misspellings and factual confusions. But the work that was school suffered. I suffered. I just didn’t have the patience for putting “work” into “school”. Then one day, my fourth grade teacher happened to notice that I was always the first one done with my in-class assignments and they were (more or less) usually pretty satisfactory-ish. She decided, for whatever reason, that I must be some sort of super-genius. (Ha! Finally someone sees my potential.) This decision lead her to consult the school counselor and the two of them colluded to subject me to a battery of tests – mostly regarding readin’ and writin’. (Math was never my strong suit. I nearly failed high school Geometry, which is typically the poor math student’s favorite class. I much preferred study hall myself.) Unfortunately, the nature and extent of this testing, I cannot recall. But what I do recall is the results indicated that as a fourth-grader I was reading at a 7th grade level (or was it 5th or 6th – shit, I can’t remember)! This put me into a league above the other poor, unfortunate, less intellectually endowed and consequently academically inferior fourth grade students.
I was alerted to this fact and likewise notified that I would be undertaking an independent reading course seperate from my contemporaries that would offer me more of a challenge than the current curriculum. It was going to be a scholastic journey, wherein my talents of extra-ordinary reading and comprehension skills would be cultivated so that they would reach their fullest potential, instead of withering away with the rest of the Joe Sixpack 4th grade class. (An appropriate analogy, I might add.)
Suddenly, I was an intellectual elitist. I can recall looking at 6th graders, and thinking to myself, “I probably have more in common with that person than I do with all of these lame 4th graders.” Or, looking at 5th graders, awash in scholastically average playground filth and thinking, “I wonder what he would say if I told him my reading and comprehension skills were superior to his? He probably couldn’t even comprehend what that meant!”
As part of my new advanced academic course load, I was locked into the library during the regularly allotted class reading time, also known as “story time” in those days. Funny that they should call such a quaint and claustrophobic room a “library” when most sane people would equate it with a broom closet, only somehow smellier and full of about 500 books that you never wanted to read. So, while my classmates were busy (barely) reading and (barely) comprehending “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”. I was deeply affected by such intellectually engrossing classic literature as “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the likes. (I say “the likes” because I honestly can’t remember what else I was to have read.) The point is: I was actually a fourth grade something!
But then, a weird thing happened: from my study room, I could hear the laughter of my classmates, story-timing away in communal joviality as together they enjoyed the splendor of the pinpoint accurate elementary school wit of Judy Blume. I began to feel isolated. It was then that I realized that to be gifted was to be different and to be different was to be alone. I then began to think that my gifts were a curse. I writhed on the floor cursing my maker, (or something similar but no less dramatic) asking why he had left me to suffer with such superhuman reading and comprehension skills.
Epilogue/Happy Ending: So, this whole experiment lasted a very short while, probably only until I finished the first book. My memory is sort of foggy here, but I seem to remember the cultivation of my superior reading and comprehension skills being ruined because the parents of Heather, who had the best grades in the class, caught wind of my isolated study time and demanded that she be allowed the same. That didn’t last long because we couldn’t share the broom closet of a library for more than one session, so we returned to normal class routine, which just goes to prove that if you have the best grades, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the smartest or the most gifted, just the nerdiest and the person who is the most desperately seeking the approval of his parents-est. Anyway, I was more than happy to have returned to my class, to sit with my fourth grade comrades of significantly inferior reading and comprehension skills and enjoy the magic that was story time.
The moral of the story is: don't be different...ever. You'll miss out on story time.