Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Remedial Me

This is the beginning of something longer I've been working on...


I failed the high school reading test—that sums up my entire high school education, but my life in remedial education began much earlier.

I was in third grade when they pulled me away from my class for the first time because I was special. I wasn’t special in the sense that I had to take the short bus to school, although that would have been fun. I still went to normal school. I only went to special school for an hour each day.

My first day in the special class, the teacher, a large stocky woman with graying and balding hair named Mrs. Wade, said, “I’m here to help you learn so you can catch up with the rest of your class. Does that sound okay?”

I nodded. Her are jiggled like Jell-O every time she moved even just a little; something about this impressed me.

“Good.” I could tell she was thinking by the way the wrinkles on her forehead grew more intense. She looked down at her desk, which was covered with entertainment gossip magazines, potato chip wrappers, and cough drops; buried beneath what appeared to be days of food was an attendance book; she moved aside the wrappers, creating a mountain of junk food, made a checkmark next to my name, and then looked back up at me and asked, “Do you like paper airplanes?”

I nodded again, this time more excited.

She seemed relived. “Today the rest of the class is making paper airplanes. Don't worry if you can't make one that flies. It’s more important to color it pretty. Can you color?”
I was too young to question how making, or rather coloring, paper airplanes would put me on the fast track to being in normal class again, but had I been old enough, I probably still would have kept quiet.

“Go join the other kids then.” She pointed at a round table on the far opposite corner of her desk where four other kids sat.

The other kids were quiet. They didn’t make eye contact when I said hi. I recognized all them as faces I had seen at one point on the playground.

Everyone seemed to have a different skill to their coloring. Jim colored with paste, because the teacher taken away his crayons; Tran, who didn't speak English, had a huge bucket of crayons that I’m pretty sure was imported from China; Tony scribbled so hard that his paper began to rip; Silvia, the only girl, dotted her airplane with flowers.

Silvia was the only one amongst us who didn’t seemed to fit the mold of other special kids. She was dressed in an ironed dress, where the others had clothes not only wrinkled, but also bugger stained. Her coloring was neat and in the lines. She also smelt pretty.

Then Silvia talked.

“Papa Smurf makes my oatmeal with jam?” She said to me when she finished coloring.

“Excuse me?”

“Papa Smurf makes my oatmeal with jam?” She said more confidently, and then began to laugh hysterically.

“Silvia!” Mrs. Wade yelled, “Quiet down or you'll be coloring with paste again.”
Silvia looked at her crayon sad, and then hit her head on the table and appeared to be taking a nap. “She’s so mean.” She quietly mumbled with her head still down.

I finished my airplane in less than five minutes. It was a sloppy coloring job that followed no patterns or even attempted to stay in the lines, but I was proud of it and was even certain it could fly. “I'm done!” I said dangling it in front of Mrs. Wade’s eyes, “What should I do now?”

Mrs. Wade was reading one of her gossip magazine, and was irritated at my presence.

“Why don't you make one for Jim now? And if you finish that just keep making them until I dismiss you back to your class. How's that.”

“Okay.” She didn’t seem as nice as when I meant her minutes ago.

When I sat down, Jim whispered to me, “I like Star Trek.” The teacher yelled at him to quiet down because she was reading something important. I was surprised she could even hear him.

I made a paper airplane for Jim, and wrote Star Trek on the wing, and then gave it to Jim. He held it proudly and said, “It looks just like the Star Trek Enterprise.” It looked like any other paper airplane, but I guess if you used your imagination you could say it looked like anything.

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