I scout out where to sit like an NFL recruiter scanning the field for that All-American running back. It’s my 7th time as “the new kid” at school. To survive I need to make as many friends as possible. Fast. I sit down next to three guys that look like they’re in my grade. I feel the anxiety go away.
I’ve changed schools a lot moving for my dad’s job and once because of my dyslexia. In 9th grade when we found out I didn’t pass the English portion of the state STAAR test, my mom told me there was a school for dyslexia, the Shelton School, where you don’t need standardized tests to graduate.
My mom thought Shelton would help me get into college. I thought they would be able to help me enjoy learning about everything. Most people think dyslexia is just reversing letters and numbers, but it’s a lot more. I can still get a low test score even though I understand the material. At home I read at my own pace and visualize it, but on tests I rush and still never finish. It’s very, very frustrating.
Like most dyslexics I have a great long-term memory, I’m always noticing connections between things, and I love architecture because I enjoy seeing and manipulating 3D objects in my mind.
We all have our own skills. In the NBA someone can be 5’8” and a great point guard but can’t play center. Even a great center like Wilt Chamberlain wasn’t any good at free throws.
At Shelton they teach to your strengths. They give oral tests. Another nice thing was that we all got our own Mac laptops. You could get all your homework done in study hall.
My public high school, Allen, is a different world. There are 1,500 people in each class. Just walking around is an adventure. There’s a fight every other day. (They were fascinated by that at Shelton.) Shelton is near a really nice area in Dallas. A lot of the kids wear Rolexes and rings. One kid even had a Lamborghini. There were a lot of rich people at Shelton, but that was fine. What was weird to me was that all of their friends were other people from Shelton, so they just learned together and grew up together and weren’t really exposed to anything.
After one year at Shelton, I decided to move back to Allen. The teachers don’t have Ivy league degrees, but they have experience. One of my favorite teachers this past year, Ms. Clemens, keeps the lights dimmed so it’s very mellow in the class. She wasn’t too nice. We still did work. I think I’ve learned a lot from her about writing – how to format different essays and what to think of for certain prompts, and tactics for analyzing essays and passages.
I also like Allen because you can meet a variety of people. Their parents aren’t so protective and they know about things going on in the world. They’re not in a little cage. They have common sense and street smarts.
I don’t want to be protected. Some colleges have dyslexic programs and special accommodations, but that type of treatment won’t help me when I’m working after college. I know real life isn’t going to be like Shelton.
My last day at Shelton, I stood on the side of Hillcrest road. The cars in the school pickup line never moved so I would tell my mom to pick me up across the street. It was six lanes and busy the whole time. Every day it was like you were running across for your life. I felt the wind from the cars flying by. I wondered if I was making the right decision. I thought about retaking the STAAR test again and again. I took a deep breath, and I ran. I haven’t looked back.