The looks on my classmates’ faces were priceless! They couldn’t believe their eyes and ears
My mother planned a big birthday party for me with my whole class invited (with the school’s permission, of course), even my teacher. The plan was for my teacher to pop over in the middle of the party and see what I was like in my comfort zone. The party was a hit. I loved the fact that it was in my own house, so I had no one to be shy of. The best part was that the girls who didn’t know the other side of me got a pleasant surprise.
The moment I saw my teacher walk in, it was like a clamp popped onto my mouth. She gave me a birthday card and a small gift. It was a sweet gesture, and until today I appreciate her thoughtfulness.
When I look back at pictures of the party, I see my younger self surrounded by my classmates, the cake my mother baked with the pink and green icing, and the colorful streamers and balloons. But most of all I see the grins splashed on all our faces, especially mine. I look like the happiest kid on earth, without a care in the world. Anyone who looks at this photo would never dream that behind my sparkling eyes, rosy cheeks, and relaxed manner was a child with selective mutism.
During second grade, we were given a “show and tell” assignment to present to the class. I already knew I wasn’t doing it. It was impossible for me to stand up in front of my teacher and the entire class and give a speech. It was like my biggest nightmare becoming reality.
Never say never. Because I did end up doing it, just not in the way I expected. Thanks to my parents’ unfailing belief in me, they arranged with my teacher that she leave the classroom while I gave my presentation. And as you can guess, it worked. I got an A+ after a brilliant performance. How? Well, of course, my teacher was listening from behind the door. I only found out afterward and was mighty indignant. But at the same time, it clicked in my brain. My teacher had heard me talking, and what had happened? Nothing. Maybe speaking in school wasn’t that scary.
By the end of second grade, I had made up my mind. I was going to, no, I had to start talking in third grade. I was fed up being different from everyone else. I made a promise, and it lingered stubbornly in my head the entire summer vacation.
Finally, it was time. The first day of third grade was looming nearer and I boosted myself with confidence and boldness, not wanting to let anything get in the way.
That day remains crystal clear in my memory. The moment I stepped into the schoolyard (where we would wait for our principal to ring the bell for the start of school), my heart filled with fear and adrenaline. I actually shouted out to my friends in greeting.
The looks on my classmates’ faces were priceless! They couldn’t believe their eyes and ears. I, the mute girl, was talking. No, I was chattering! I was… like a free bird. I was so deeply relieved that I had gotten over that hurdle. I felt a brick roll off my chest.
But I still wasn’t done. The most terrifying part awaited me in the classroom. My new teacher. I calmed myself by remembering that she had no clue what I was like and if I spoke to her, she wouldn’t find it strange. Of course, my childish brain didn’t consider that teachers from the previous year would discuss their students with the next year’s teacher.
Mrs. Brody began calling out the names on the class list, and each girl answered, “Here.” While I was normally silent, leading my previous teachers to think I was absent, this time I steeled myself, and when she called my name, I announced my presence just like every other girl. The teacher didn’t flinch nor look in the least bit surprised.
The day went on and I even raised my hand once to answer a question. It was incredibly frightening, but so worthwhile. I felt like a brave warrior.
to be continued...
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 972)
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