Thursday, April 26, 2012

To Wayne, With Love

Today I got to actually use my own computer for a minute to log on to FaceBook (as opposed to my phone), and what do you know but the fact that it was Wayne’s 60th birthday was displayed up there with my notifications. I clicked over to his profile to peck out a quick “happy birthday” on this wall, as we are all so accustomed to do these days.

And the moment my curser started to blink in that little box, the tears started to flow.

What do you say when happy birthday in 420 characters or less could never do it justice?

When I had met Wayne I had already been institutionalized for a year, and I had missed most of my schooling the 2 years before that. He was a bright eyed idealistic hippie-ish grad student at the U of M. I mean he a tall and lanky, scruffy faces, shaggy hair Birkenstock wearing, tie-dye sporting, health food-eating true epitome Ann Arbor’s native son. He ran/taught our agency’s “In House School,” at the time a classroom setup in the basement of the house I lived in.

When kids would come into placement from any of the houses in our agency they would be assessed academically and an individual education plan would be made. A kid might be schooled “in house” all day, go to their resident’s public school or some combination of both.

I attended to local middle school/jr. high in the morning and walked home for the second half of my day, usually to find Wayne up-stairs on our living room couch eating a bowl or plate of leftover god-knows-what, that he had brought to for lunch from his co-op or commune, or whatever the heck that place he lived was. He’d eagerly offer us kids a bite,

wanna try it?

oh…err…um…nope…not…on…your…life…I…don’t…but, yeah… thanks bunches.

I hadn’t moved at all in math since fourth grade when we had to memorize our times tables and had to be able do them all however many in however many seconds on timed tests, I wouldn’t I couldn’t, doesn’t matter ‘cause I still can’t but was not going to be taught anything else until I did. To which Wayne just shrugged his shoulders and said something like,

Meh, life would probably be easier if you could, but whatever… here I got you this algebra I book from the high school, why don’t you not worry about memorizing those times tables and try this.

Well, I did, I got it and I was over the moon.

I had always been a SLOW reader…I mean SLOW. Reading took a lot of effort. I was humiliated time and time again each time a teacher called on me to read aloud to the class. I was extremely avoidant about reading for school …again, I was held back. Again, good old Wayne wasn’t having any of it. He got me text books and novels ABOVE grade level, because 1. That was where I had tested in comprehension and 2. If reading was going to be such an arduous task I may as well be engaged, interested and actually learning something for all the effort. Crazy I tell you!

I learned the love of the newspaper on the front porch of South Seventh House, in our lunch time class, called, “Current Events.” I think that might have been code for, hows-about-you-stop-talking-long-enough-so-i-can-eat-then-you-can-blather-on-and-on-about-something-I-may-actually-find-interesting-when-i-am-done-okay? Win, win.

Wayne made me write papers, or rather he sweetly suggested that I might maybe like to write papers and I am sure I rather sarcastically, assured him that I would rather not but I did anyway. I’d hand them back and he’d say,

Great paper, good content! Amazing, somehow you have managed to spell, “Because” four different ways in the same paper, and not one correctly. Girl, you got some skills…NOBODY else could pull that one off.

Wayne made me my own cozy little study area in that basement, away from the classroom. I had a desk and a bean bag chair next to the washer and dryer, not as a punishment, not because I was disruptive to the other kids. Nope, not as I remember it. He moved me, because the other kids were disturbing TO ME. Imagine that! I couldn’t focus or concentrate AND keep track of what everyone around me was doing.

He has move on, to much bigger and better things since his one room schoolhouse teaching days, (two if you count my laundry room). He has had the opportunity to test and evaluate and come up with Individualized Education Plans for many, many more kids. When I remember how he used to let all of us kids pile into the back of his pick-up to take us on field trips, to a game, the park, or out for ice-cream I realize not only how very long ago that was (can you imagine anyone doing that today?), but how very lucky those of who knew Wayne back when, and got him hands-on in the classroom were to have him to ourselves.

Wayne taught me:

Learning disabled dose not equal stupid.

Creative spelling is high art.

When one thing isn’t working, it is ok to try something else.

Learning is not linear, it happens in concentric circles.

The way it is usually done, isn’t the only way it can be done.

Struggle doesn’t feel like struggle when you have a good cheering section.

Never let what you don’t like keep you from doing the things you love.

And a whole host of other things that I could go on about all day and night…

Any way today is Wayne’s 60th birthday and all I did to celebrate was write this lousy blog post.

Every child deserve to have a Wayne.  Did you have one?

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