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Category archive: Gerald Hartup

Tuesday December 25 2007

A few months back, my friend Gerald Hartup had a stroke.  That means – and meant - brain damage, surely the scariest kind of damage there is.  But, the prognosis is good, as is often the case with stroke victims, I now learn.  Much depends on the attitude of the stroke victim him or herself.  Do they keep a positive mental attitude and keep battling away at their exercises, mental and physical, or do they let their circumstances defeat them?  As in the more usual sort of battle, morale apparently counts for a lot, and can be decisive.  And Gerald’s fighting spirit is superb.  If anyone truly deserves to have a Happy Christmas this Christmas, it is Gerald Hartup.

I know these things because I am one of the many friends of Gerald who have been visiting him regularly to help him with his various exercises, in my case sounding out words and helping Gerald to link them to appropriate images.  Every time I visit now, I feel I detect definite improvement, both in Gerald’s fluency with the exercises, and in the variety of words he is able to manage spontaneously, so to speak.  One of the oddities of his condition is that in the midst of failing to say a quite easy and short word with, for instance, an R in among it, he is able to exclaim “Christ!”, with no difficulty, to communicate his frustration.

By the way, I am writing about Gerald and about working with Gerald with his enthusiastic permission.  If anything, I owe Gerald profuse apologies for having taken so long to get around to doing this.  I hope that writing about him and his circumstances on Christmas day will please him.  I believe it will.

image

That photo of Gerald was taken some time before disaster struck, but happily it remains a good likeness now. Strokes can wreck the whole look of your face.  Happily that hasn’t happened with Gerald.

There are all kinds of things to be said about the experience of teaching Gerald, if teaching is what it is.  I will end my mentioning one particular thing in this first Gerald posting, because it concerns the Christmas present I have offered to contribute towards buying for him.

Teachers often have an understandably jaundiced view of the contribution or lack of it that computers can make to education and training.  You’d think that by now computers might have started to play a big part in teaching basic literacy to children, yet this is still done mostly with paper and pencil and the like, with a human teacher presiding.

The problem is motivation.  Computers aren’t now motivated, unless you motivate them.  They are like bicycles, rather than cars.  You don’t steer them only.  You have to drive them forwards with your own efforts.  That may change, and when it does I expect the impact of computers on education, for even the most intellectually indolent of children, to be spectacular.  But for now, if you don’t supply the propulsion to a computer, it will just sit there, do nothing, and achieve nothing.

But Gerald is motivated.  Christ yes, as he would now put it.  Unlike children, who often don’t really get what they are missing in not being able to read and write, Gerald knows with hideous intensity exactly what he is missing, and desperately wants it back again.  So when, last week, he told me about the computer program he had been shown by one of the local authority experts who has been helping him and monitoring his progress, I could at once see what a difference it might make.  Had been making already, in fact, because he showed me how it worked, and managed to communicate to me that he had worked at it for several sessions, each an hour or more in length.  Here at last was a way for him to exercise his mind without imposing on any of his friends, for hour after hour after hour.  It could make all the difference.  But then, when he showed the program to me, it maddeningly announced that his trial period was over, and could he please pay if he wanted to do any more.  I at once offered to contribute towards the cost of its purchase, an offer I repeated by phone to Gerald’s wife, and repeat now.

Well, that’s enough about this for now.  I now have to rush off to share Christmas with my family.  I will have much more to say about Gerald, and about teaching Gerald.  For, whatever Gerald may or may not be learning from working with me, I am certainly learning a great deal from working with him.  Happy Christmas once again to him, and to all.