My eyes squint through the bookshelf as I watch the class sit criss-cross applesauce on the carpet. It is independent reading time, and everyone is reading except for me. The bookshelf separates me from the class, but it feels like it separates me from any chance of being “normal.”
My eyes slowly scanned the room through the slits that the books made on the shelf. I saw a girl dressed in a bright pink dress holding up a “Tree House Mystery” book. Her smile reached from cheek to cheek as she exchanged knowing looks with her friend. I knew these looks meant that they were aware of how good they were at reading. When the girl in the pink dress made eye contact with me, I ducked down in embarrassment. I didn't want her to know that I wasn't part of the “reader circle.” However, I knew it didn't matter because everyone already knew I could not read well. Then I turned to watch my teacher as she pulled out the book she planned to read with me. She said we were going to read a book together about a cat. However, I knew it wasn't a real book; it was only papers stapled together. I was disappointed as my small fingers flipped through the stapled papers and saw that each page contained only a few words. I sighed as I realized my teacher continued to view me as a hopeless reader.
I was sick and tired of seeing the same old words and crummy paper books every day. It seemed as if I was stuck in a box labeled “Dumb Kids” by teachers and classmates. Some days I would leave the classroom, and other times I would miss Spanish class to go to the resource room. Every time I left class or came back, I felt pairs of eyes burning into the back of my head. I was embarrassed to leave because I thought I was one of the only ones who needed extra help.
Whenever it came time to head down to resource, I would start off as slow as possible while running my hands along the walls. I would do this so that I could waste as much time as possible. When I could see the room from 10 feet away, I would sprint so that no one saw me going in. As I stood in front of the huge door, I would look down both sides of the long hall to make sure no one saw me slip in.
When I sat in the huge room, nothing else mattered but the clock hanging on the wall. Throughout the sessions every day, I continuously stared at the two red hands moving clockwise. The carpet and walls were a similar tone of beige, which made everything look opaque, and it made me feel uncomfortable. Those hands on the clock were the key to my escape.
Everything in the room, from the piles of tests to the childish paper books, made me feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I just wanted to rip everything apart and cry. In my little head, resource seemed to be the place where teachers sent me to find more things wrong with me. Every day I wondered what was so wrong with me that I had to be put under a microscope. I knew most people did not expect much from me, so I started to think little of myself. I didn't think they were trying to help, but that they were trying to fail me. I was getting sick and tired of being seen as less than, and I needed to make a change.
The only person who seemed to have faith in me was my tutor. After school, I drove to a house with a red door twice a week. As I walked through the threshold to my tutor’s kitchen, I felt the sweat of stress drip down my face. I was anxious and scared to tell her about my issues at school. I was afraid she would not understand my problems. I was afraid she would tell me, like everyone else had, that I couldn't be good at school. I sat down on her couch squeezing my security blanket. Tears welled up in my eyes as I struggled to get the words out of my mouth. Next, I told her I wanted to read big chapter books like everyone else, especially a book that one of my triplet sisters had read. She smiled and told me, “It will happen!”
The next day I trudged up to the resource door as I did my routine check. I crossed the threshold of the door hoping that day would be different. My resource teacher walked up to me with a smile. However, I could tell by looking in her eyes that she was skeptical about something. Her hands caught my attention as she pulled out a real book from behind her back. She handed it to me, and I finally smiled.