Story & Photo – Joseph Boyle & Granddaughter Sigrid
My life started out with no preschool and no kindergarten. Such programs were not made available to me right after World War II.
By the time I started first grade in 1949 I was proud of my already developed ability to spell my name, JOE. I was so proud, in fact, I wrote my name on many of my personal possessions. Later I became ashamed of my ability to spell my name after discovering I was spelling it backwards; EOJ. If I was dyslexic, I was never told. Although dyslexia was discovered in 1881, there may not have been wide awareness about the condition in the 1940s. We just thought, EOJ = dumb.
During my first year of school, I caught every kid illness that came along except polio, causing me to miss half of first grade. When I was in school, I was distracted by seeing so many kids in one place. To me, first grade was like kindergarden.
At the end of first grade, the school principal at Bothell Elementary School in Washington State, came to my classroom with and announced, “All right boys and girls, everybody stand up. We are going to walk down the hall to see your second grade room and meet your second grade teacher.” I still remember the feeling of excitement. Then he said, “Oh, not you Joe Boyle and John Stoner. You two sit back down. You two are not going anywhere.” I have a reoccurring dream that Dale Carnegie, of How To Win Friends and Influence People fame, punches my principal in the mouth.
I think I turned out all right in spite of this cruel educational experience. I still wonder how life turned out for John Stoner. At last he never returned to burn down the school or anything like that.
John became a community hero after our school bus driver passed out behind the wheel from a heart attack. Just as our school bus was going to plummet over a cliff, John pulled on the emergency break saving us all from a certain death.
While being unceremoniously humiliated by our principal should not be the end of the world, it was obviously impactful, evidenced by the fact that I still clearly remember that sorry day 65 years ago.
I started first grade for a second time in a new school, which gave me a fresh start. All the way through my school years I focussed on the singular goal of graduating from high school. Looking back, I consider that to have been a strange goal. Graduating should have been expected without even thinking about it. Combining good grades with graduation was never one of my goals. I only focussed on graduating. For me high school was in many respects a miserable life experience, but I did graduate. My 2.47 grade point average was not much to brag about, but at least I had my high school diploma.
What happened next was amazing. Because of several mentors in my life including my neighbor, Mr. Sandstrom, LPA – (Licensed Public Accountant), Miss Gertrude Hanson – Teacher and High School Guidance Counselor, Sir John Prins – University Professor & Advisor, and lastly The Puyallup Rotary Scholarship Committee, I caught fire in college successfully gaining an excellent education. This time, my goal to graduate from college included the companion goal of getting excellent marks.
Now let’s compare my sluggish academic start with that of my granddaughter’s. Sigrid is 7 and in first grade and does not spell her name backwards as “DIRGIS,” like her Papa EOJ did so many years ago. She entered first grade with the advantage of pre-school, kindergarten, plus music and art lessons.
Sigrid, who is a voracious reader, recently sat down at her parent’s computer and wrote her first article, which she cleverly combined with a photo.
Sigrid serves as an important reminder to adults to never tell a young person they cannot do something because they are too young. If it is not illegal or dangerous, let them try. I have seen 3 and 4 year olds doing amazing things because the adults around them were possibility-thinkers with an open-mind-can-do attitude.
Inside those little kid brains, powerful things are going on.
Succeeding or failing is not important. Trying is important. We should reward our kids for their effort, not their results. When they grow up, effort and a can-do attitude can take them far in life.
While a kindergartner, Sigrid, along with her little pal, Faith, led the Pledge of Allegiance to open the legislative session in her state capital. Afterwords, Sigrid and Faith visited with her state’s Lieutenant Governor.
Recently Sigrid read the lesson from I Corinthians in front of her church during a worship service and she really did well.
Sigrid meets opportunities to excel and experience life head on.
While it is obvious I am a proud grandfather, this story is bigger than Sigrid and me. The main point is little kids can have much more potential than we might expect. As adults, we are well advised to lead our kids by being far enough out front so as to not impede their progress. We can also support them from the rear by rewarding their effort. If we can do all that successfully, our children have a better chance of reaching their full potential.
Parents who tell their children “No, you are too young,” or “Quit asking questions” may negate any chance kids have to become achievers. With enough negative talk, kids can start to believe they are not worth enough to accomplish exciting goals.
As parents and grandparents getting this right can make a huge difference in our children’s lives.