1945 That’s Backwards

I found myself in a classroom, seated at the front with my nose almost touching a blackboard. A tall teacher was by me and my parents were very nearby. Every so often the teacher blurted out ‘That’s backwards’ as I got the circles on the wrong side of the sticks with my chalk. Strange really, because I thought I knew my b’s and d’s but obviously not when asked to perform, as it were, for both teacher and parents. I think that was my last day at this local school. I can’t remember   much detail but it was not a happy place for me to be. I had no idea what was going on most of the time  and often had no idea what the teacher was talking about way out there in front. The last straw had been when someone tipped me backwards out of my chair and I cracked my head on the ground.

The morning and evening journeys from home to school were pretty good, though. Whatever the weather we made two bus journeys accompanied by a lovely lady called Mrs Clay. She always had goodies for the journeys: Sweets, occasionally dark chocolate my favourite, and sometimes a sandwich. It was always cold and often foggy, very foggy and on a few occasions things were so bad that the bus failed to come and we had to walk. Mrs Clay was in a state on those occasions but elder brother Dave came to the rescue. He knew the way even when Mrs Clay could scarcely see ahead. 

Apart from seeing so little of what went on in the classroom, I was frustrated by the fact that, whoever was trying to show me something, whether letters, drawing or taking a look/feel at something new, the demonstrator always stood in front of me and I wanted them behind me.  Their hands guiding my hands, their right on my right and us both to be able to focus on the object. That’s what happened at home and I had not the language, understanding or the confidence to make it happen at school. But when in later life I was a teacher of blind children and an adviser of others, ‘put yourself Behind the blind child in the teaching situation when practicable’ was my advice but I am not sure it was understood or heeded.  

A little later, when I was learning braille in a special school, the  backwards thing came to haunt me again. We had to write our braille letters with a dotter, bodging holes in the paper using a guide frame. Obviously, to feel the dots we had created, the paper had to be turned over. i.e. we had to bodge backwards to make the thing work. I used to lie in bed at night thinking about these complicated matters mentally rehearsing how I had to mentally reverse my braille writing. Even today I find myself 180 degrees off the mark when thinking about a journey in my head.

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