His desire to do well underneath all the bad behavior was the
way to open up his best qualities, Johnson decoded. Her odyssey
with Alvin wasn’t restricted to the classroom. She visited his
mother to learn more and to ask her permission to take a large
role in disciplining him. She readily agreed.
In The Horse, Miller notes over and over how ill-prepared
he was for school. He never attended kindergarten or other
preschool classes. While other kids could count and knew their
colors and some even were on the verge of reading, he was
completely lost and overwhelmed. He simply gave up trying to
learn and did what he wanted.
That included running away from home and living on the
streets for months. He ended up in Judge Jack Rogers courtroom
where he was suspended for the remainder of second grade.
The judge threatened to send him to a notorious reform school
in Tallahassee if he ever came before him again. For once, Alvin
listened to an authority figure.
The student and teacher began working together one-on-one
and gradually changes in him emerged despite his reluctance to
behave any better.
“I told him he’d have to get to my house every day before
school to complete his homework,” Johnson recalled. “My husband,
Jimmie, and I had all the books and encyclopedias he needed.
He made the honor roll that year and never looked back.”
Miller notes in the book how success in school and Johnson’s
attention were like a drug he craved. Life just became simpler
and easier once he started to cooperate.
Miller loved football and was a star running back in high
school. Johnson and her husband began going to his games and >>
EASTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY
Miller was a walk-on running back for EKU and played on the Colonels
team that won the NCAA-1AA national championship in 1979.