My Teacher Shamed Me When I Couldn’t Read. 30 Years Later, I Ran into Him at a Bar


As a child, I wasn’t taught the importance of an education, let alone how to use an adjective. I lived in the projects, and it smelled of despair. The only way out was by playing professional ball or hustling.c

We never talked about school as the ticket to a future. School, for me, wasn’t about classwork. I was given 25 cents and a free lunch ticket five times a week. My mama signed on the dotted line to make sure I got the lunch as I needed it. I was in classrooms, but I wasn’t there to learn how to write or read or even speak. Being unable to verbally formulate what it was I was feeling inside kept me angry. I was in a classroom full of — for the most part — mentally challenged students. But I wasn’t better than them. Teachers handed out worksheets I couldn’t comprehend. When it came time for me to read, I wanted to hide; I was ready to vomit almost all the time. I cried constantly — not literally; my tears fell inside me. I was 13 years old, but I already hated being who I was.

I had an English teacher, Mr. Creech, who was part of my nightmare. He knew. Heknew I was assigned to only two regular classes a day and that the one class I attended the majority of the day was full of mentally challenged students. He knew I couldn’t read. And he found it necessary to expose my secret. He would turn to me: “Anthony,” he’d say, “why don’t you read the next paragraph?” I didn’t even know what a paragraph was. I would try to read what was in front of me. Valiantly. But the mere sound of my voice incited instantaneous laughter.

It was a lack of craving for an education.
For years I dwelled inside the walls of my inadequacies, attempting to dismantle them brick by brick. Knowing my own failure, though, made me reluctant to fix it; I hated the thought of reading because I knew I couldn’t do it. It was a cycle I couldn’t break out of. How did this happen? It was the school and the teachers who didn’t encourage me, but it was also my parents who never told me to focus on my education, and it was me for giving up.