I am in fourth grade. We have a period in our school day called SSR, sustained silent reading. For fifteen minutes a day we are all, including the teacher, to be reading for pleasure. We are allowed to choose any book we want, even a comic book. The teacher sets a timer to let us know when our time is up.
I look forward to SSR every single day. It's part of what is keeping me sane this year because the teacher is a nightmare. I've never gotten in trouble in school. I am careful to do my homework and turn it in. I get good grades. For some reason though this teacher has it out for me and for about three other girls in class. He looses our homework and makes us re-do it. He accuses us of misbehavior when we are behaving. He makes nasty comments at every turn.
SSR is my chance to retreat into some pages and find relief. I may only be nine years old but books have been my refuge for a long time already. It's easy to get lost in the world between the pages and I often do. This is something encouraged by both my parents. They regard it as a good thing.
Two years ago I discovered a biography of Helen Keller. I was amazed by her teacher Anne Sullivan who was able to reach into a world of silence and darkness and anger and rescue a little girl who had no way to make herself understood before. I was impressed by Helen's determination to overcome once she understood there was a world of words at her disposal. It gave me hope that I could deal with whatever problems I had because mine certainly weren't nearly so challenging.
This year I have found biographies about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman. They are more people who overcame more than I ever imagined could happen to a person. I read about how Dr. King was able to allow himself to be mistreated without striking back in order to make his message be heard and to demonstrate the rightness of it. I learn his powerful words that challenge us to our best selves. I read about Harriet Tubman's bravery to not only escape the abuse of slavery but courage to walk back to it in order to bring others out. I learn she could not read books but she could read people and nature and she did not allow her deficiency to define her.
I read all of these things during SSR, during the respite from harsh words and taunting words and what I will one day learn are entirely unprofessional and inexcusable words. I am lost in my book, inspired, refreshed, strengthened, when I hear more words. "Miss Lime... Miss LIME....MISS LIME. Well class, I suppose we'll just move on to math class without her since Miss Lime can't seem to be bothered to join us. She's too involved in her books." His last word drips with disdain before he lets loose with a derisive cackle with the class joining him. When his words and laughter register I feel a fleeting moment of shame before I remember the character and lessons of my true teachers in between the pages of my books. This man and his methods are unworthy of my embarrassment.