March 9, 2009
This week, the story comes to us from Pointe Claire, Quebec. The author, Bernice Rosemarin, has been enrolled as an adult learner at the Pointe Claire office of Literacy Unlimited for four years. During her childhood she got very little encouragement, from family or the school system. She was an introverted child. Being too shy to tell anybody how difficult life was she grew more and more frustrated. Bernice repeated kindergarten and grade one, and at one point she refused to go to school. School was a bust. She left school in grade 8. That is history. Bernice began late in life at age 57, but she can do many things that were impossible to do before. Looking back she knows it is never too late to learn. In April 2006 Bernice won the Quebec Recognition Award for Adult Literacy, which was quite a thrill. A certificate from Literacy Unlimited and a “Kiss” from her husband were also a wonderful reward.
What I would like to be and what I can do are two different things. The past few years have taught me to accept myself for who I am. Failing at the simplest task was a discouragement in itself. I was 57 years old when I finally took the initiative to look for help.
Finding a place for help was a challenge in itself. I noticed an advertisement in the newspaper for adults that had difficulty in the workplace because of learning difficulties. From this advertisement and many phoned calls I found Literacy Unlimited. I was introduced to two wonderful women at Literacy Unlimited. We discussed what my needs were, and what they could do to help me. Most important was finding me a tutor. In the past I had no luck with school, or sympathetic teachers.
When I started I was not sure what I needed, or wanted from Literacy Unlimited. As the weeks became months I knew Literacy Unlimited found me a "Perfect Match". The tutor, Shirley Anderson was patient, understanding, knowledgeable and most of all was extremely creative in her approach with me. Keeping myself focused was a challenge and I suspect it was a challenge for my tutor also. Patience is not one of my virtues.
My tutor has given me the self-confidence I did not have. I know now that when I do something it is to the best of my ability. Now I am able to understand simple written instructions. I love to cook and bake but because of not being able to read the recipe correctly I would mess up. The measurements were not calculated correctly (a simple feat for most) but with a little help, the cake that used to look like a pizza finally looked good enough to display at any table. Now I can understand the recipes, read articles, and read the instructions that come with any medication without asking for help or worse making a mistake.
I was told throughout most of my younger life that I was retarded. This label has followed me ever since. Thanks to this organization and my tutor I know that I am not retarded and can learn. It always will be frustrating, but I will persevere. I learned to believe in myself, and if I fall get up and walk, running is something I still have to learn how to do.
I had many disappointments in my life, especially when it came to motivating myself or recognizing what I could do. My principal in High School said the thing best to do is leave school and become a scullery maid. If only he could see me now. I am much more confident, motivated and can recognize what I can and cannot do. I may not write the next great Canadian novel, but I am able to read and understand it.
[This story was taken with permission, from the Literacy Volunteers of Quebec website, in the Students section.]