Learning How to Read
Hearing the laughter of my peers, sweat starting to dribble down my legs-this was my English class every day. I was never that bright when it came to English class. I used to think English was hard back home in the Bahamas, but it was a joke compared to my new teacher. He was also a college teacher, meaning we were doing college work. He grew up in Detroit and considered himself to be a hard teacher, and no one could intimidate him. After everyone became familiar with the teacher we began reading a book in class. Each day the teacher would pick someone new to read in the class room. I used to laugh at other people and make jokes until one day it was my turn. That was the worst teacher I ever had, but now I look back and am glad that he pushed me.
My best friend in high school was Adaric, he was from a small island called Aruba. English was not Adaric's first language. He had a hard time speaking English at first and his thick accent didn't help much either. In English my teacher chose Adaric to read one day. After he messed up a couple of times and everyone laughed, he decided he did not want to read anymore. That was the worst thing he could have said; from that day, if someone had to read it was Adaric. As time progressed his reading got better and better, even though he despised reading out loud. I used to laugh at him and always volunteered him to read in class. He hated me for it. Then that one day came around where I volunteered Adaric to read and my teacher gave him the option to pick someone else to read. Of course, Adaric chose me!
As I began to read, everything was fine until I mispronounced one word and I could hear someone chuckle. I got really uncomfortable and tried my hardest not to mess up again, but this only made me more nervous and scramble the words more. When I was done reading, my teacher looked at me and asked if I was illiterate. I laughed because I really did not even know what that meant. Class finally ended and I went on with my day. The next day in English class, of course I had to read again. As soon as my teacher called my name to read, my legs started sweating and I was extremely nervous. Right when I started I had messed up already and of course, here came the chuckles again. I messed up more and more and everyone laughed more and more. Everyone tells you, you shouldn't care what people say, well if you get put in the situation-you care! That went on for months and months until I started to get aggravated and talking back to my teacher saying "I'm not reading anymore." One day I got the option of gambling. If I won, I didn't have to read any more; if I lost, I had to read for the rest of the year. Sure enough, I lost.
Every day I walked into English and got the chills; just the thought of me reading and messing up, gave me the chills. Months went by and I was still reading almost every day in class. I read poems, books, anything that had to be read was done by me. I honestly don't think I went through one class period of reading without messing up and getting laughed at. I guess this was karma for always volunteering my friend. Now I am the one getting laughed at. I would try to get out of reading every class period, and every time I tried, it just made it worse. All my teacher wanted me to do was read and not have any excuses. At the time I didn't realize it. When I would talk back, my punishment sometimes would be reading in a girl's voice or something crazy like that. All this time I would think about how much I didn't like English class or my teacher. I didn't realize how much better my reading was actually getting.
At the end of the year, my class mates were so used to me reading we would make a joke out of it. Every class period my teacher would say, "Who wants to read?" and everyone would reply "Scotty does" and he would say, "Scotty? Great!" I would just laugh and begin reading. I still messed up, but I learned how to laugh at myself and have fun with it. Then it happened, after reading a whole story, I didn't mess up once. My teacher looked at me and said, "I know you probably hate me, but your reading has improved so much." At the time I just shook it off and really didn't think about it too much. When I look back on it now I realize he taught me more than just how to read; he also taught me to laugh at myself and not to worry about what other people say. He taught me a life lesson that I could not have learned on my own, I really appreciate him as a teacher and a person. After a whole year of stress I can finally say with pride, "I can read."
This paper was sent to Matt's email before we left for Christmas break. It was from one of Matt's former students who is now in college and was writing a paper for his class. The student didn't say anything to Matt about the paper or his thoughts, he just sent the paper and let it speak for itself. I don't talk nearly enough about Matt on here and his impact on his students. Almost monthly he gets some kind of communication from a past student thanking him or telling him what their college professors think about their paper writing abilities. If he ever doubts that what he is doing is important I want to redirect him to this paper. I don't know too many people who would be patient and persistent for a whole year, just so some kid would get better at reading and in the process become more confident. He really is answering his calling of being a teacher. Babe, the last 5 years I have watched you teach with passion, love and determination. Your students hate you at the beginning of the year and adore you by the end. They always come to see that the reason you are so hard on them is because you love them enough to believe they can do great things. Keep on going. I know you are tired, but what you are doing is valuable and life changing. i love you