When you grow up highly dyslexic and highly <cough> intelligent, you learn quickly where written words and numbers are going to fail you. You learn tricks, you know when to recruit helpers. You start mastering these techniques as soon as you start school. Back then there were no special classes for smart people. My main objective from grade school on was “don’t get grouped with the stupid kids”. Even then I somehow inherently knew that I would learn more by cheating my way through with bright kids than I would ever learn being bored by remedial work that was not addressing my issue.
By senior year of high school I was pretty good at making the system work for me. A full day, every period filled with crazy mix mash of classes that, made me seen like a renaissance man to my councilor (he went as far to mention it). Little did he know it was an elaborately thought out plan for how to avoid letting everyone know how severe my learning disability really was.
For instance, instead of English, I had speech and public speaking. Counted as an English credit, but I didn’t have to read any long literature. I sought out the Poli/Sci teacher who liked oral presentation as well. The less writing and more performing, the less likely I was to fail.
Math through algebra 2 was the only requirement to graduate at the time. I did that over prior summer so I would only have one thing to focus on and possibly pass everything my senior year.
Physics, this one took some work. I wanted to be in the honors section cause I knew I could learn from the dynamic and metaphor using honors physics teacher better than the one that liked to stick to the dry numbers. I got a C in Chemistry the prior year and needed at least a B to qualify. The honors class was only taught one period a day. By throwing in marching band and welding I was able to charm them into a scheme of letting me qualify, as it was “the only time physics would work in my eclectic schedule”. Once in the class I did well, any elaborate equations one of my friends checked before handing in the work, my plan succeeded.
Anatomy, one of two courses I got an A in my senior year (welding was the other, but that's a story for another post). Why? Easy, it was like learning a map; it was all pictures. But there was one other thing that happened in that class that makes it note worthy.
We had to dissect fetal pigs, when I say we I had a lab partner. Wicked smart with the books, not so nimble with the fingers. In addition to being able to name all the parts as we got to them, we were also graded on the neatness of our dissection (looking back a rather odd requirement for anatomy, but that was a long time ago). At some point over the many week project my lab partner severed a number of large arteries accidentally. This one ape-ish spasm was endangering one of the few A’s I might ever earn legitimately.
I snuck the fetal pig out of school. I took it home and performed surgery. With fishing line and a sewing needle I was able to repair the damaged parts. The next day, I was back in class for the day’s dissection review. The teacher came by, looked and looked, asked few questions and then moved on.
After class he asked me to stay. He was very direct, “I know what happened with your pig, I know your lab partner had an accident. I was ready to penalize you for trying to hide that from me. But when I saw how well you reconstructed it I decided to give you a pass. Nice work. Have you considered a career in surgery?”
In 12 years of school, I think that was the only time a legitimate academic class ever rewarded me for craftsmanship.