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The 6th Grade Experience

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Five years and a million moons ago, I was seated in my sixth grade English class, unsure of the production about to unfold before me and simply hoping for a class free of the usual spiteful glares and angry reprimands I received from my teacher, Ms. L. Ms. L was the kind of teacher who was a stickler for the rules; with her bone-straight hair forming a box around her face-the topic of many gossip sessions-she was the typical no-fun, all-work kind of woman. Teaching with a mindset extremely traditional and conservative, Ms. L had no tolerance for anybody who might learn in a way different from what her courses offered. No exceptions were made and every rule must be followed or a looming merit would hang over the head of the “abnormal” student, leaving behind a scratch on their otherwise unmarred report card. Though far from abnormal, my learning styles differed from Ms. L’s teaching methods, and I was just beginning to discover a small learning disability that would handicap me for the rest of my life. After numerous, exhausting tests and visits with various neurologists, I found out I was hindered with a Graphomoter disability. Though very mild and easily treatable, the Graphomoter disability rendered me incapable of concentrating in class while taking notes. I could not write things down and listen to the lesson simultaneously; multitasking became my enemy, and it crushed me mercilessly. The first day I toted a, now outdated, Ibook G4 to class was my first step into the raging fire of Ms. L’s wrath. She sneered at me when I told her of my newfound handicap and barely stifled a laugh at the rumpled note I withdrew from my backpack: a note from my guidance counselor proving the necessity of the laptop. Reluctantly accepting the laptop’s usage, Ms. L then decided she would further torment me by constantly accusing me of abusing the powers of my computer. After her third bout of yells regarding my “inappropriate usage of the Internet”-which was impossible due to the lack of Internet connection her classroom had-I grew impatient as she grew even more short-tempered. When I repeatedly proved to her that I was doing nothing but taking notes on the computer, Ms. L began searching for other ways to humiliate me and get me in trouble. She began publicizing my disabilities by yelling at me for staring out the window or not looking at her, fair points, seeing as they were products of my undiscovered ADHD, but completely inappropriate to mention to a class full of 12 year olds. The class would glare at me each time Ms. L barked my name and my face began to sting with embarrassment as watery tears threatened an appearance. The creases of my eyes grew wet as the harassment grew worse, and by the end of the class I could no longer hold them back. My face flooded with tears as humiliation turned my cheeks a bright vermillion as the bell rang. For possibly the seventh time that class period, Ms. L said my name-though she much less said it than she spit it out like the seeds of a watermelon or the bitter aftertaste of a sour drink. She called me to her desk and each step I took towards her riddled me with a thousand bullets of fear. By the time I made it to her desk I was quaking and nearly unable to stand, my laptop lay heavy in my arms as my heart pounded like an African drum, awaiting another piercing comment from my heartless teacher. “Sit,” she said. I sat. “Listen to me, Susan,” she began. I was listening. “I’m sorry that you’re crying,” she told me in the least sincere voice I’d ever heard, “but I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to be your teacher, and if I have to make you cry to understand the rules of my class, so be it.” She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, leaned back in her chair, and turned to her filing cabinets, busying herself with work to avoid facing me in all my broken glory. Filled with bitter disgust and hatred for this woman, I silently stood up and exited her cavern of torment, rushing to the bathroom to clean up my act and regain what was left of my lost dignity.
The days following that traumatizing experience were filled with fear and a plummet in my self-confidence the second crossed the threshold into her room. Ms. L continued to single me out and found a game in seeing how low she could make feel before a glistening tear crept out of my eyes. Though unwieldy and unjust, her harshness steeled me to a point where I could tolerate a weeks worth of harassment without waving a white flag of defeat. Her schadenfreude games became dinnertime discussions and like any mother in her right mind, my mom called Ms. L in hopes of setting her straight. Without exaggeration, the yelling between Ms. L and my mother was audible from another room and it droned on and on, their personalities and opinions clashing continuously while leaving a feeling of unsure guilt churning in my stomach. Finally, the phone clicked, and the house was silent.

Ultimately, Ms. L gave up torturing me when she realized she was no longer getting the response she had initially, and a threat from the guidance counselor’s office likely aided her decision to cease her haranguing and simply accept my ways of learning. As I look back upon that conflict, I see only victory. My desire to return to her classroom, beaming, and flaunting my current English grades: my accelerated-and even Advanced Placement-status, is one that claws at my insides every day. To see the look on her face would be priceless and would only remind me how I refused to let that struggle consume me. Defeat was not a word in my vocabulary and it never will be. Thank you Ms. L for proving that people like me will always rise above people like you.





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