When I began school I didn’t speak English. As a immigrant child my first day in school was terrifying. I literally knew not a word spoken by the teacher or the other students. There was a cousin who was born in Canada and spoke some Italian, but like me it was only the vocabulary learned from our parents. It wasn’t proper Italian; it was “montanare”; literally “mountain speak” a dialect not from a region but from a small town in the region. You can well imagine the difficulty for the first several weeks as others spoke English and French; it was a bilingual school in Northern Ontario, and yet I could barely communicate in either language.
Children learn quickly, and given the situation it was impressive that I passed that first year of school. But, I wasn’t considered an outstanding student and just got by. Still by the second year I was able to communicate in English with the teachers and other students, in a French patois with schoolyard friends and a bit of Portuguese with other immigrate children. Still schoolwork was a struggle.
I can remember the turning point of my scholastic career. My father was a miner in Northern Ontario and there was a strike. After that strike we had a dentist and an optometrist come to the small town and all the children received dental care and eye care. If I recall I had 4 cavities filled but more important I got a pair of glasses. When I returned to class with my glasses I was teased mercilessly, but I could now read what was on the board and the words in my book with ease. I became a reader and a student.
For the next 38 years I have worn glasses and thanks to them I have graduated from university and developed a successful career. Without the improved sight I may have languished as a student and likely fallen short of my potential.
Four years ago I had the Lasik procedure done and this was as transforming to my lifestyle as those original glasses were to my scholastic work. My eyesight was made 20-20 without glasses. I was able to more freely participate in activities that previously was limiting to me. Even with glasses I had played hockey, volleyball, skydiving and other activities, yet I always felt less at ease. With the corrective surgery I finally was comfortable swimming and took up scuba diving. Now all these things are possible with glasses and reduced eye sight, but for me being free of eye glasses made my life better.
The eyes are the windows to the soul. So much of my experience is based on sight. Reading, Television, Movies, Computers. My work and my play are all dependent on good eye sight. I can only imagine what my life would have been like had I not received that first pair of glasses. My school work would have suffered and by the time the true cause of my problems would have surface the die would have been cast, as a marginal student perhaps I would not have gone on to higher education. Just a small change, a small refocusing is enough at an early age to reshape your whole life and experiences.