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Tear it!

Tear it!

Joshua Maiche

The teacher asked the class condescendingly: “Class, what do you think I should do with Joshua’s sheet of paper?”

My name is Joshua Maiche, I’m an expatriate living in Cuba, and I will be turning fifteen in April and am in the Grade 9 I.G.C.S.E. Program. I don’t have a lot to say about myself, except now I have found out that my “problem” was dysgraphia, a writing disability. I was in a French school when this happened, but in my mind it was common for primary teachers to be evil. At that time, the school claimed they knew about learning disabilities, but they only knew about dyslexia (not that there’s anything wrong with dysgraphia, its just that there were no other learning disabilities recognized there). I am now at the International School of Havana, Havana, Cuba. Here they actually HAVE a learning disabilities section. I would like to give a special thanks to Mr. Shaun Henriksen, my Grade 9 English teacher, who gave me this autobiography as an assignment, Mr. Hugh Mac Lean, the learning disabilities coordinator and the sender of this autobiography, Ms. Maritza Garcia, the translator of the text into Spanish, and my friends and family, who help me deal with my writing disability.

Here’s my story:

Finally finished! I hated written assignments. Writing was extremely hard for me, and I always finished last. The teacher thought that I was just lazy, and was writing slowly on purpose. She said my handwriting was tremendously ugly, so I was desperately trying to make my messy cursive writing resemble all the other second graders’: smooth, elegant letters.

Finally bringing the paper to my teacher ten minutes later than all the other students, she looked at me blankly, then at my paper, then back at me, then finally back at my paper. I couldn’t tell how she felt about my paper, but I knew how I felt. I was glad I had completed the project and didn’t have to worry about it anymore, proud to see that my handwriting looked better than usual, relieved that the assignment was finished before the class was entirely over. Nevertheless, I was slightly nervous about my teacher’s blank expression.

I just stood there, hoping the unmoved teacher would slightly praise my tremendous efforts. But did she praise me? Of course not! I must have done very well because instead of adding my paper to the pile of completed assignments, she calmly held up my sheet of paper, allowing the other students to see my handwriting and, with the same blank face, she asked the class condescendingly: “Class, what do you think I should do with Joshua’s sheet of paper?” I was exhilarated! The teacher had taken my beautiful sheet of paper, my tremendous effort, and was displaying it to the class to show its transcendence! This was all perfect: my handwriting was not the worst in the world anymore, the teacher thought it was an improvement, and the students were going to exclaim, “give it a twenty (out of twenty)!” Why was I so nervous, then?

The students opened their mouths, they were starting to speak, and then it came out in one voice, as if they had rehearsed it for months, “TEAR IT!” After those brief two seconds, time froze. I was devastated that after all my efforts to improve my writing, it still was disgusting. My confidence had shattered into millions of shards, which would take years to mend. The chanting continued. “TEAR IT!” I didn’t care if I was breaking the rules; I just wanted to run out of the classroom so I could cry alone. “TEAR IT!” Why couldn’t I have normal handwriting, even when trying the hardest I could? “TEAR IT!” I just wanted to be normal, to have normal handwriting.

The teacher, giving a sign to the students, stopped the repetitions. I knew what was going to happen. The teacher was going tear my sheet in half, without any signs of remorse, in the same manner as if she was tearing a piece of scrap paper in half. Miraculously, she didn’t. Instead, turning to me, she explained, in the same tone were she taking about the weather, “You see Joshua, it’s not just me, the whole class thinks your handwriting is terrible.” Instead of tearing my sheet of paper she had torn my heart, and I had realized that no matter how hard I would try, I would never write as neatly as other students, because I had a problem, and the whole world would hate me for that.

Looking back on this experience, I now realize I didn’t have a problem, my teacher did, for she was mocking what she didn’t understand, and she didn’t understand what she was mocking. She was therefore calling anything she couldn’t comprehend “strange”, to prevent the class from knowing she could not understand. She was simply bullying me to protect her ego.

Fortunately we moved to Africa shortly after that incident, and as teachers started treated me like a human being, my confidence slowly grew. Nevertheless, I still hate Ms. X, the weakest woman on earth, the teacher that shattered a child’s confidence just to build up some of hers.

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