Written by: Laleh Chini
I moved to the USA when I was in late 16. The only English I knew was “hello” and “how are you?”
In September 1986 I attended Grade 12 in George Washington High School at Charleston, West Virginia. Not knowing enough English to attend high school was a hard challenge.
For every single subject that I needed to complete to be able to graduate, I had to work triple hard. I had to find every single word in the dictionary to understand every subject.
But it was a great achievement for me and I was very excited and positive about it. Months passed and I was getting better in English and was speaking slowly but more smooth. My English teacher was very kind and patient with me, she talked slowly and clearly to make sure I understood. My Algebra teacher loved me because I always handed in neat homework and got A+ in his class. All the students and other teachers were super nice and never made fun of my baby steps in learning English.
There was a very tall white man in his late sixties, always shaved. He had white hair, blue eyes and his face was mostly red. He was very serious and looked angry all the time. His name was “Mr. Moore”. He wasn’t nice to anyone, but he was even more unkind to me and a girl from El Salvador. He was our Biology teacher and no matter how polite I was and how hard I worked in his class, he always gave me an “F” for my work. After months of trying, I realized if I continue this way, I wouldn’t be able to graduate. I went to the Grade 12 Councillor, Barbara. She was a white chubby lady with a beautiful smile. I remember that I cried a lot in her office and explained my situation. She mumbled: “Oh, that racist….”
And continued: “My dear don’t you worry at all. I will transfer you to another Biology class.”
I grudged and said: “What about the months of “F’s.”
She got up from her desk, held my hand and took me to Mr. Huffman’s office and told him: “She is another one of Mr. Moore’s students set aside for sacrifice. She is getting good grades in other classes. I want her in your Biology class. She needs to graduate. She needs our help.”
Mr. Huffman said: “Oh dear, Mr. Moore did it again?!”
I really didn’t understand on that day what they were talking about until I got C+ in Biology and graduated with other students.
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