Retired Teacher Reveals He Was Illiterate Until Age 48


John Corcoran graduated from college and taught high school for 17 years without being able to read, write or spell.

Corcoran’s life of secrecy started at a young age. He said his teachers moved him up from grade to grade. Often placed in what he calls the “dumb row,” the images of his tribulations in the classroom are still vividly clear.

“I can remember when I was eight years old saying my prayers at night saying, ‘please, God, tomorrow when it’s my turn to read please let me read.’ You just pretend that you are invisible and when the teacher says, ‘Johnnie read,’ you just wait the teacher out because you know the teacher has to go away at some point,” said Corcoran.

Corcoran eventually started acting up to hide his illiteracy. From fifth through seventh grade he was expelled, suspended and spent most of his days at the principal’s office.

The former teacher said he came from a loving family that always supported him.

“My parents came to school and it no longer was a problem for me reading because this boy Johnnie — the native alien, I call him — he didn’t have a reading problem as far as the teachers were concerned. He had an emotional problem. He had a psychological problem. He had a behavioral problem,” said Corcoran.
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