A Special Guest Post

This being Mayor of Cooperstown stuff has me pretty busy lately. Elise, Nate’s aide, had her baby yesterday and Nate needed to go to school. Karen, who had some time off from her own business making jewelry at Quirky Works Studio (look for her on Facebook page), took him because I couldn’t and I asked her if she would consider writing about the day. She did. Her voice has been missing since Mission of Complex started, and it’s a damn good voice (and one that will certainly be heard from if we ever get a book deal). Here’s her account:

I got to go to school with Nate on Tuesday. As the last time I had accompanied him to class had been his very first day of college, back in September of 2009, I was interested to see what he was like as a seasoned college student. And I found out.

First, he is really independent. He ran ahead of me from the parking lot, through the campus, to his classroom, took his seat, and got to work on his computer. I wasn’t sure whether he was running so far ahead of me because he didn’t want to be seen with his mom, or whether he was nervous about being late, or whether he was just anxious to be in the classroom. Elise told me that he always runs ahead of her, too. I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t want to be late to class, though, because he is practically gleeful when he’s trucking up the hill, and he does not seem stressed at all.

Second, he completely fits in. Even as he’s doing his kind of awkward lope across campus and singing or talking to himself, no one looks twice at him. He doesn’t stick out any more than the kid who’s composing raps as he walks along the path, or the guy who is practicing a speech as he makes his way to class. He sometimes answers his classmates when they greet him, and sometimes not. Just like the other students. He asks his professor for help when he needs it, listens to her explanations, and follows through. He wears shorts and t-shirts when it’s still cold out. Just like the other kids.

Third, he is REALLY smart. The class we attended was graphic design. During class time, we reviewed Nate’s menu design, which the students and professor deemed “perfect” and “professional,” requiring no corrections. Then he got to work on his characters made with letters, turning his sketches into more polished versions. He needed some help from the professor to find where he had saved his work, but when she started explaining a process to him, he was three steps ahead of her in about a minute. Then he worked independently, manipulating characters to create pictures in an astonishingly prolific way.

It’s strange for me to realize these things, because my radar is always up for people looking at him like he’s weird, or for him doing something inappropriate in public, and I am always ready with a quick explanation of his disability. Instead, Nate fit in completely, and I found myself relaxing, and enjoying the sight of him on campus, a smart, appropriate, independent young man.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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5 Responses to A Special Guest Post

  1. Karen and Jeff, this is a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing, I will be sharing it as well. Angela

  2. Pingback: My Turn | Mission of Complex: Our Journey Through Hyperlexia

  3. Nate has been a pleasure to have in my classes this semester. He always seems comes to class happy and joyful — and laughs at my dumb jokes (which is the reaction I hope for from my students, but don’t always get.) My theory is, students produce more when they are having a good time. I have enjoyed watching his progress. Visual communicators are right brain thinkers and share their own language, one of images. Nate is amazing, and has a lot to say. — Sheila Rae Carey, adjunct professor, graphic design, SUNY Cobleskill

  4. Nate has been a pleasure to have in my classes this semester. He always comes to class happy and joyful — and laughs at my dumb jokes (which is the reaction I hope for from my students, but don’t always get.) My theory is, students produce more when they are having a good time. I have enjoyed watching his progress. Visual communicators are right brain thinkers and share their own language, one of images. Nate is amazing, and has a lot to say. — Sheila Rae Carey, adjunct professor, graphic design, SUNY Cobleskill

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