As much an embarrassment as it was, my teacher – Ms. Powell after asking me to read aloud in class, noticed my hesitation and my obvious sinking in the chair. She quickly guided the reading to another student and asked me if she could take me to the nurse’s office, stating that I looked a little pale. Even though I was not sick, a voice inside told me to get up and go with her, so with my curiosity getting the best of me, I was off my chair and following her outside into the hallway. There my teacher immediately took charge, addressed my issue with reading and from that moment on, became not only my teacher, but my mentor and my best friend.
That school year changed my life! I was never the type of student to stand out in a crowd. In fact, I was more like a poster on the wall. A boring poster, one that everyone saw, read, and then immediately dismissed (like those posters of the digestive tract in human biology class). That was just fine with me, I never had the confidence to make friends or the ability to keep them. Actually, I walked away from the opportunity. I always worried someone would find out that I couldn’t read and my esteem would sink even lower than imaginable. I was content being nobody.
At least I always thought so, then, Ms. Powell entered the stage and played her part so well. She was the only one who ever noticed me, pushed me, and forced me to realize that I was somebody, and not just anybody, but somebody who would someday make a difference whether or not I could read. However, if this was Something that would someday hold me back from what I was to accomplish, then we were going to put an end to it right now. None of my other teachers ever bothered to take the time to address my issue even when they saw me struggling with my reading.
This always made me feel like I was not important and they verified it. How I continued to pass each grade up to the 8th (and I had six teachers in the 7th grade) was beyond me. At the end of each year my teachers informed me they passed me to the next grade, they followed it up with, “work on that reading kid. ” The thought never crossed my mind that they were looking out for their own reputation and didn’t really care, I just figured somehow I was getting lucky, some luck huh?
I have to look back now and be thankful for the lack of instruction, they delivered me right into the hands of my personal savior, the woman who appears to me as an angel and brings peace of mind unbeknownst to me before, Ms. Powell. At this time of my life I called her Sister Sister, yes that was her. Sister’s husband had died several years back, “Choppy” she called him. They had been married almost 28 years when he passed – they were high school sweethearts. She had been married for almost 28 years and never knew her husband couldn’t read. He kept that secret from her until two weeks before he passed.
She blamed herself for always being too busy with her students to even notice Choppy couldn’t read. She promised him she would teach him but he made her promise this instead “don’t spend your gift of teaching on me Sissy – your love has always been enough. Spend the energy teaching someone who really needs you, they will come along, and when they do, you’ll know. ” She looked for that person the first two years and never found anyone who really needed her help. She eventually gave up on looking for that special person and went about her day feeling beaten and alone.
Then she asked a lonely, withdrawn, little girl to read, that girl was me. She immediately knew, she heard Choppy say “do your thing, Sissy”. She guided the reading away from me, and directed me to the nurse’s office. Meeting me in the hallway, she took my hand in hers and said to me – “It’s okay, I’m here to help,” I knew what she was talking about, I looked up at her the only time I ever locked eyes with another human, and in the most honest and sincere voice I’ve ever heard she said, “to overcome your struggle, with reading. All at once it hit me. I knew she meant it, she hugged me and I cried. I knew my life would change. Over the course of the next year, Sissy and I spent it together working daily to make sense of the words on the page. It was a trying time but through many tears, laughter, and a few weeks of fighting, Sissy accomplished something no one else could ever do, she taught me how to read.
She brought me out of my darkened, lonely world and for the first time in my life I felt I was somebody special, someone important, and someone with a chance to be whatever I wanted to be, and be smiling with confidence the whole time I was doing it. At this time, I called her sister. Yes, sister, that was her name. To this day, we call each other on Sundays and I read a couple pages out of our favorite book, the one sister used to change my world, “The Wizard of Oz,” by Frank L. Baum. She loves the part about the scarecrow.