It’s a miracle that I earned a Graduate Degree from NYU. And, it was a miracle I graduated from the City University of New York. It was even more of a miracle that I graduated from Long Beach High School.
I’m guessing I have some form of A.D.D. or, A.D.H.D. But, back in the early 1950s, this was not an issue that any school addressed. You were either a student or a loser.
I grew up in a very loving home. My Dad worked very hard and did a great job of providing our family with food on our table and a roof over our heads. And, my Mother nurtured us to the best way she knew how. Neither of my parents were well educated. So, they didn’t read us books or teach us about constructive play. They just provided us with a nice home, nice clothes, good food and a television. I remember watching Rootie Kazootie, Pinky Lee,, Winky Dink, The Mickey Mouse Club and Dennis the Menace.
Once we were old enough, we were allowed to go outside and play with our friends. Stick Ball, Stoop Ball and Salugi (otherwise known as “Keep Away” -a game that was designed to tease someone who had their hat or school bag taken from them ). My life – until school began – was a ton of fun.
I distinctly remember the very first day of Kindergarten. I cried and cried and cried. I didn’t ask to go away from home and I didn’t want to be away from home. But, somehow I accepted that this was my new lot in life.
I never really connected with any teacher. The subjects they taught were boring and sitting most of the day was boring. Some kids really thrived in that environment but I wasn’t one of them. As I passed from Kindergarten to 8th grade, I can’t remember a single subject. And, my grades were a reflection of my complete disconnect. Ninth to 12th grades weren’t much different. Well, I do remember my 10th grade English teacher. God, was she hot! And, remember a science and history teacher who made a significant attempt to make learning fun. But, that was it.
How or why I was given a Certificate of Graduation is beyond me. If I learned anything it was a miracle.
My next step – don’t ask me why – was that I signed up for night classes at Nassau Community College. I took the standard Liberal Arts Courses .. Geology, Math and English. My interest and grades continued to be a reflection of my failures in public education. UNTIL, my English teacher assigned us to write an essay. He provided us with a list of topics and told us to choose one. I told him I didn’t like the choices. So, he told me to pick my own. I choose Existentialism. Now, mind you, my abysmal test taking history in his class was not exactly a reason why he should expect any improvement. But, since he allowed me to choose my own path, I dug deep into the subject matter. I read about Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Somehow, I was fascinated with this subject. So, I read and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. And, I turned in my 10 page single-spaced paper to my teacher on the day it was due.
The next class was our last one. The teacher returned our papers with our grades. He gave me a C Minus and he wrote on top of the first page that I had plagiarized. My heart sank. I worked my ass off on this paper. I was exceptionally proud of this effort. It was probably the first time I ever completed a school related task with such pride and sense of accomplishment.
At the end of the class I approached the teacher. I told him I did not plagiarize anything – not a line nor a thought or ian dea. And, if he could find any plagiarism in this paper he can have my week’s paycheck (I had a dumb daytime job just to keep me busy). He took the paper home. A week later I received a manila envelope in the mail. He returned my paper and crossed out the original grade and added his comment. He wrote: A Minus. In this case the student taught the teacher. He believed me. He rewarded me. And, he gave me the confidence to go forward. I wasn’t a loser after all.
After Graduate School I took a job at an Arts Council on Staten Island and produced some amazing street and ferry festivals. And, I moved onto to a brief career as the Development Director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts.
And, then onto a successful 31 year career as the owner of a film production company in Richmond, VA.
Sometimes miracles happen.