I was the 'new kid', having been transplanted by the Air Force from Tyndall AFB in Florida to Midwest City, OK. Culture shock? Well...when you are used to being within walking distance of the beach and now you are in Cowboy Country..yeah. Even more so...going from living in an Air Force community to a big city suburb.
I was really, really shy. I don't remember any friends that year. Recess consisted of me going out to the playground and sitting on the edge of the 'blacktop', drawing designs in the dirt until the bell rang. Until I noticed all the readers lined up in the bookcases against the right wall of the class room. My teacher started letting me stay in at recess and sit quietly, reading books.
God bless that woman.
It was wonderful. I would read book after book in the peaceful, empty classroom. I remember sitting in a warm ray of sunlight at my desk one day, and for some reason, I chose to read the text out loud to myself. I think I remember making up conversational tone.
I didn't know the teacher was in the room at the time.
"Bring your book and come with me!" she said.
Dutifully I brought my reader and held her hand as we walked to the principal's office. Am I in trouble? What did I do wrong?
My teacher whispered a few quiet sentences to the principal, and he looked at me, smiled, and told me to come sit on his lap and read that book to him. I remember climbing up on his lap and being a little terrified..I mean, this was the Big Guy who saw you when you misbehaved...who without a doubt had a paddle somewhere.
He told me he was so proud of me that I could read and patted me on the head and sent me back to class. Later, my mom told me the school called her at home and excitedly announced that I knew how to READ! My mom was like, "....and? This is not news to me!"
Moved again to Middle Georgia. Still, very shy, very quiet. My teacher was Mrs. Lanier. She was no nonsense and had no warm fuzzies about her at all.
I remember having to read stories and answer comprehension questions afterward. Then we had a sheet that we had to list words that we did not know. I remember leaving that little section blank everytime, because there were never any words I didn't know. I remember thinking how dumb that was when all the words were so obviously easy.
She calls me to her desk, a little irritated. "YOU aren't following directions. Where are your words? Go sit down and write down your words." I was too intimidated to tell her I knew all those words. But, being the compliant kid, I went back to my desk. What was I supposed to do? I was confused. So I just picked random words from the story and wrote them down, and turned it back in.
She called me back to her desk.
"You don't know THIS word? And THIS one? Really? Where have you been? This is unacceptable. Go sit down."
I remember my face burning with shame. Everyone in the class heard and saw the whole thing. Did they think I was a dumb kid?
The difference between the two teachers, when I look back, is so obvious.
But as a kid, I thought I had gone from being a pretty smart, great reading kid to a confused, not-so-smart kid. I thought it was *me*.