As I look back on my twelve years of Jewish day school, it is hard to find a unifying theme on which I might reflect. Rather, my educational history seems disjointed, constantly in fluctuation. So I’ll start from the beginning.

From when I was a toddler, my mother was convinced that she had a baby genius on her hands. She read books to me every night and soon enough, I was reading to her. She made the local preschool accept me a year early, despite the fact that my birthday missed the cutoff date by three months. For a while I showed a lot of promise. I shared my toys with other children, I brought home drawings worthy of being hung on the kitchen fridge, and I was a voracious reader. With an abundance of encouragement from my family and teachers, I felt like a shining star.

First grade arrived, and with it came one of the things I still dread to this day: Math. It became apparent that I had issues when I had trouble distinguishing the number “2” from “5.” Nor could I write them without considerable difficulty. I received substantial help from my teacher, and I eventually learned the difference. We all breathed a sigh of relief; I was still on my way to joining the best and the brightest.

But what started as a small obstacle turned into a massive roadblock. It took full days for me to understand addition. Weeks to get used to subtraction. On a digital clock, I still could not tell a “2” from a “5.” Although I was reading on a third-grade level, it was decided that I needed extra help in math and I was assigned to the resource room. And so, at the young age of six, my ascent to great scholarship crumbled.

My years in the resource room still haunt me. I was forced to spend hours every week with the kids who stole snacks from their classmates and threw sand in their eyes. They taunted, teased, spit, and mocked. And they had not the least bit concern for learning math. I began to hate school. I dreaded each day. And my math skills were still substandard. For the next eight years, I brought home report cards filled with B’s C’s and F’s.

In short, my worst learning experience took place from first through eighth grade.

My luck turned around when I got to high school. By some miracle, I was placed in the honors class in ninth grade, finally in an environment that took learning seriously. I saw my classmates listening to the teachers and taking notes. I followed suit. I soon discovered that by paying attention, taking notes and studying, I could actually succeed. I still had a problem passing my math classes, but school was no longer my adversary. Over those four years, I buried nightmarish days of the resource room in the past and managed to do well in school. I felt like I was back to my pre-first grade days. Despite the eight-year hiatus, I was finally getting back on track.