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Dean Whitbread 2013

Dean Whitbread 2020

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Written on June 5, 2006, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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I used to find it difficult to stop talking. When I was young I got constantly into trouble for talking when I should be working / quiet / sleeping / listening / praying / obeying random adult dictats. From a young age, at school I had the capacity to finish my work in half the time the other children required, at which point boredom and my innate sociability would kick in and I’d begin to assist anyone that needed it. Teachers, sensing competition, ordinarily at this point attempted to contain me but invariably failed. One of the first reports I received states: “Deek has the ability to complete his own work whilst putting everybody off theirs.” Rubbish!

I was cursed with a “reading age” (whatever THAT means) of 16 by the time I was 7 years old, which meant that the solutions offered even by the most well-meaning of supervisory adults were incredibly inappropriate.

I remember once taking a reading test, of the English type favoured in the 1960s and 1970s which consisted of reading through a list of words which grew progressively more difficult. The assumption was if you could pronounce it, the word was in your vocabulary. I waltzed through the first fifty or so. Then I came to “enigma” which I pronounced correctly. The teacher paused me there.

“Do you know what that means?” he asked, looking at me over his half-moon reading glasses.

I looked at him. “It’s a mystery,” I quipped, straight-faced.

“Thank you, that’ll do,” he said, and beckoned the next child to come forward.

“But…” I could see dozens more words that I knew cascading down the sheet. “I know what it means,” I protested. “It means..”

He glared at me, and brusquely dismissed me with a haughty, flicking hand gesture. “That will DO!” he snapped, not letting me finish my correction of his error.

Aghast that he was rebuking me despite the fact that I had clearly done better than any other child in the class, I returned smarting to my seat, knowing that I had once again been undervalued, my intelligence scorned and my ego publicly crushed.

The lesson I learned from that was not nobody loves a smart-arse or even just do the test and don’t screw it up by being funny – rather it was the certain knowledge that until I was in a similar position of authority, I was not going to be able to be myself; and with that came the determination to be myself, regardless of recognition from “on high”, and the assumption that being told to shut up probably meant that I was onto something.

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This thing has 2 Comments

  1. Indigobusiness
    Posted 5 June, 2006 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Few love a smart-arse, I can testify to that, but i’ve seldom let that get in my way.

    Live and learn, I say, and that goes for teachers, as well.

  2. Shirley Buxton
    Posted 5 June, 2006 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Everyone of my four children–three boys and one girls–receive similar remarks on their report cards.

    We thought it might have something to do with the fact that we are a family of preachers–my dad was one, my husband is one, now two of my sons are preachers, a grandson is a preacher, and many of our friends fill pulpits.

    Loved the post. 🙂



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