From the many times I have repeated this story, when I refer to the very first time I learning to write my first letters of the alphabet, I can still vividly remember everything about this particular day. The story I’m going to tell you now happened right at the very beginning of my First Grade school year.

We can ALL relate to our memories of the day that the teacher passed out the first sheet of manila paper with the widely spaced blue lines, and a special blunt nosed pencil, in order for us to begin our first lesson in writing out the first several letters of the alphabet.

My day was fairly pumped with anticipation, having already done some practicing of writing a few of the alphabetl letters on my own.

I was ready…!

The paper and special pencils were passed out and we were officially ‘writing’ for the first time in class, I was anxious to start learning.

The hand I favored to use for this project was my right hand… it appeared to me to be the best choice given the task at hand. The standard for writing, back in the early 1950’s, stressed importance in the way the pencil was being held. It had to be held with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger of the hand the writer decided to use.

As a class, we were all getting into the ABC’s and I thought I was doing pretty good… untill the teacher stopped by my desk.

At first I thought she was admiring my beginner’s pencilmanship, as I thought to display my grasp of properly forming these first three letters of the alphabet.

Obviously, as a little kid, I did not possess the mechanical ability to control the wooden instrument of my present learning exercise by holding the pencil in the exact manner the teacher instructed us to hold the pencil… but, that was not the problem, because I found a way to improvise.

To be able hold the pencil in my small hand so I could learn how to write letters I just cradeled the pencil within my fingers and started writing; I was doing pretty good with my beginning writing skills.

Then, standing right in front of my desk and in a voice loud enough for the the entire class to hear, the teacher instructed me to use my left hand to write my lessons, “…because my right hand wasn’t any good….”

(These were her actual words; I never forgot them…)

So, I complied… and continued working with my left hand.

My family lived relatively close to the school I was attending and it was not unusual for me to walk the 3 blocks home to eat lunch everyday.

This particular day that my class was first learning to draft their first ABCs, I went home for lunch. While my Mom was finishing preparing my sandwich and bowl of tomato soup, she casually asked me how I was doing in school today..?”

I told her, I was doing good, but the teacher made me start writing all over again…”

With a modestly puzzled reaction, she asked me what I meant…

I then proceeded to tell her about how I was holding the pencil while writing my first ABC’s and that the teacher stopped by my desk and told me that “I had to learn how to write with my left hand, since my right hand was no good…”.

(Believe me when I tell you I never forgot this teacher and what I wrote she said, in this narrative, is the actual quote)

My mother stopped stone cold making my sandwich and I actually thought I saw her start turning into the Incredible Hulk… and I saw fire in her eyes…!

Then, I finished my sentence by saying, “…that’s ok mom, when the teacher is looking I write with my left hand and when she’s not looking I write with my right hand… see…” …as I demonstrated to my mother what I was doing.

That’s when I first learned and practiced writing with both of my hands.

I also suspect that there was an interesting parent teacher conference as well…

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In the picture below, I’m in the top row; third from left to right… as you might notice I have my hand in my pocket because in that class, the teacher was on me to learn to write with my left hand because my right hand could not hold the pencil in the way she wanted me to hold it. Keeping my right hand in my pocket a lot was a habit that began in that class.

The apparent crease down the middle of the picture is not actually a crease, but rather it’s where I tore the picture in half after I brought it home from school that year. My parents paid for it so I had to bring it home.

I tore it in half because I did not like the experience or the memory of being in that class…


Here’s a poster that I created to reflect that time in my life…

poster 14