An excerpt that tells a piece of my story…
The bustle in the hallway could mean only one thing: today we all had a French test. Having French with Sr. Patricia was quite an experience. Sr. Patricia had a rule that no English could be spoken in her classroom so even in week one, she would talk on and on in French and I would sit there having no idea what was happening. Unfortunately for me, most of my classmates had French in grade school. There were no foreign languages offered at St. Gabriel in Norwood, so I was behind.
The only time I had any idea of what was going on was when there were pictures or video. When there were pictures and examples, I could piece together what I was being asked to do but when Sr. Patricia lectured on and on, I was lost. While my classmates were listening and comprehending and forming brilliant opinions, I, on the other hand, was seizing an opportunity for prayer as I said over and over in my head, “Please God, don’t let her call on me. Please God, don’t let her call on me. Please God, don’t let her call on me.”
Of course eventually, she would call on me. The only thing I could offer in response to whatever she asked me was a blank stare. I couldn’t possibly formulate an answer to a question which was filled with words I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand any of the words I heard. I couldn’t formulate a question or an answer based on the words I heard which I did not understand.
I was always tempted to say, “Well, I can see from that picture that Mrs. Tibaut has returned home with some kind of groceries. The girl and boy and grandpa are sitting at the table. The girl is playing with the dog and the boy and the grandfather are playing a game.” I could have explained what I saw but I never did because I was being asked to explain what I saw in a language I could not process. I very literally “could not put it into words.” When I offered no answer at all, it appeared as though I was “stupid,” “lazy,” and “unmotivated.” I worked harder in this class than in any other and I had nothing to show for it.
I would be instructed by Sr. Patricia to see her after class. Sister would tell me that I needed to pay attention in class and apply myself. She told me I was lazy and I wasn’t motivated to do well. How could I explain to Sister that I was paying attention and applying myself but no matter how hard I tried to tell my brain to flip that button on the remote that turns the language of everyone on TV from English into the language of your choice, I couldn’t. I was lost. If you have ever studied a foreign language or been in a foreign country or tried to communicate with someone who speaks a different language than your own, you have a small insight into those with language based disabilities.
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