My Shameful Rise to Grammar Superiority

It's no secret that I'm a nerdy grammar fan. I not only have grammar conversations for fun, but I also headed a grammar parade float for three years. The source of my grammar obsession is actually a shameful story that most people would never admit to; fortunately for you, I'm willing to blog my most shameful stories.

In third grade, there was a kid with Down syndrome named "Bruce" in my class. Well sort of, most of Bruce's day was spent in special education classes, but he made appearances in the main class occasionally. At one point he popped in while the rest of my class was receiving a grammar lesson.

"Oh, Bruce can do that!" Bruce's aide told my teacher while the lesson was in progress. I didn't believe it, of course. I was struggling to understand the whole subject/predicate thing myself, so how would Bruce ever understand that? Besides, there's no way his special class would be ahead in the text book of where my "normal" class was.

Bruce went to the board and answered all of the questions correctly, several of which I had gotten wrong on my own sheet. As Bruce beamed with pride, the girls in the class all clapped for him in a condescending manner. My response, although private, was even more condescending. How could a "retarded" kid be smarter than me at something? I couldn't stand it when any of my classmates was better than me at anything, so I definitely was upset when the kid in special ed was superior at grammar.

That night, we didn't even have homework, but I still took my grammar book home with me to start learning ahead of the assignments. I'd be damned if I would be made to feel that dumb again!

And I think that's how my love of grammar began... while trying to rectify a feeling of inferiority. Perhaps it's no coincidence that grammar lovers often use their knowledge to make others feel inferior.

Yeah, I'm ashamed of my third grade reaction in retrospect, but at the same time, that moment could be largely responsible for the person I became: a high school English teacher and copyeditor. Looks like someone learned how to excel at grammar after all! I wonder if Bruce can say the same. (That's awful, I know. I only said it because it's awful, I swear. I actually hope he's doing really, really well. And I mean that even more sincerely than Steven's sister.)

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