I am afraid of flying balls. (please take a moment to snicker to yourself if necessary). Ahem, for a person with limited peripheral vision flying objects of any sort can be dangerous. But it seems flying balls have been the ones I’ve had to deal with most in my life. I can recall being smacked in the face by one on several occassions. And what better time is there to be smacked in the face with a flying ball than elementary school?!
I think it’s only fair that I share a positive story about a childhood teacher since one of my earlier posts included a negative 1st grade teacher story (Use Your Eyes). I had some amazing teachers over the years – my parents’ didn’t pay Naperville IL taxes for nothing. But my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Griffith, is hands down my favorite teacher. He was a fantastic educator for a variety of reasons, but for me, he stands out because of the way he dealt with my RP struggles.
But what about the flying balls you ask? Oh right, let’s get back on track. I remember it like it was yesterday – the nervous apprehension I felt entering phycial education class (or as we called it back then “gym class”). When I went to school, gym class was 30 minutes everyday. So each day I would pray that we would be doing gymnastics, running, scooters, ANYTHING that did not involve a ball, especially a flying ball.
On this particular day, my heart sank as I entered the gym and saw the volleyball nets set up. I remember BEGGING my gym teacher to let me sit out of volleyball, but apparantly not being able to see the ball is not a good enough excuse.
To make matters worse, some of my closest friends happened to be the most athletic and competitive girls in the class. They shouted for me to hit the ball whenever it came flying my way. But I would always miss it – I mean EVERY time – I did not see it – not once. The only time I could actually touch the ball was serving, which I was actually decent at. But nobody cared that I could serve the ball – they just cared that I couldn’t hit the ball. So after gym class, none of my “friends” wanted to walk back to class with me. I could actually hear them literally talking behind my back as we walked to class, “Jenelle wouldn’t even hit the ball when it was right in front of her face” and “She didn’t even care that we lost becasue of her”. They talked as if not hitting the ball was my choice and they were mad.
I felt so dumb and ashamed of myself, and the tears just started coming….and coming….and coming…..so I quickly ducked into the girl’s bathroom and locked myself in a tiny stall where I wept hard. I soon heard a knock at the door, so I reluctantly peaked my head out of the girl’s room to find Mr. Griffith standing there with wide open arms. I am thankful that I grew up in a time where hugging students was still acceptable because a giant hug was EXACTLY what I needed at that very moment. Between loud sniffles, I told Mr. Griffith what had happened in gym class. He offered to talk to the class about RP, and I accepted his offer. I’m not exactly sure what he said to my classmates because I chose to stay outside the classroom during his talk. But I am certain that it was kind, informative, and just right because everyone was nice to me when I came back in the room and I felt accepted by my classmates. As it turns out, 5th grade was a fantastic year for me – I thrived academically, socially, and emotionally due in large part to Mr. Griffith.
Truth be told, I am tearing up as I write this. I guess some moments in life are just so touching that they’ll stir up emotion even 20 years later.