Chapter 3: On Starting School

May 5, 2009



I’m the Asian being held/comforted by the teacher on the right.

I can only imagine how silly I looked my first day of school.  I get a little embarrassed thinking back on it now.  I must have been all trussed up in brightly-colored, matching sweats from Taiwan, butchered Engrish slogans strategically placed all over the whole getup.  What can I say to defend my childhood fashion faux pas?  Ignorance is bliss.  Apart from looking like I had come straight from Taiwan, I sounded it also.  I entered pre-school not knowing a lick of conversational English.  It was a little like being tossed into the fire.

This presented a problem to the Westport Board of Education that I’m not sure they’ve ever had to address before.  As far as I can remember, I was not placed in an English as a Second Language program, probably because (I’m going out on a limb here) I was one of the first completely non-English speaking students they were ever presented with.

Instead of creating a separate class for my “special” needs, I was just given extra attention by the teacher that served only to further isolated me from the rest of the class.  I didn’t mind though.  Being thrust into the classroom setting and forced to interact with English speakers and daily television therapy soon had me jabbering in English wherever I went, loosening my reliance on speaking Mandarin Chinese, a skill that was proving to be useless in this environment that I was quickly adapting to.

It was here in these early classrooms that my love for reading was first cultivated.  I learned English letters quickly and found myself reading more and more at a very young age.  As I mastered the ability to read at a certain grade level, I quickly moved on, finding more interesting reading material just around the corner on a different library bookshelf.  I was a voracious reader at an early age, spending hours at the library perusing the hallowed book stacks.  I always ended up checking out a stack of books too heavy for me to easily carry to bring home and pore over.  The library was my safe haven and the only colorblind space I could engage myself with at ease.