I my fluency of the Polish language stayed steady.

I grew up with a 100% Polak mom and 100% American father. Raised around both languages, I became fluent with both. My mom is the typical Polish Catholic woman, who believes in church every Sunday and makes homemade pierogies. She made me attend Polish school every Saturday, making sure my fluency of the Polish language stayed steady. My dad on the other hand, typical Sunday night football and 4th of July barbecues man. I rarely saw him. He worked 8-10 hour shifts a day. I never quite understood why my dad didn’t speak Polish like my mom and I. Family holidays were mostly held on my mom’s side of the family. Although everyone spoke English, my dad was always the odd ball out. Watching him not able to speak Polish with all of us always made me uncomfortable. My mom and I mostly spoke Polish to each other, but tried to include my dad as much as we could when we were all at home. We taught him simple words and sometimes we were all able to have a conversation in Polish. Although this was a rare occasion, my mom and I were always happy to help him learn the beautiful language. I was not aware that knowing a whole separate language would have put me in certain situations in the future. Take it back to my first month in first grade. I was the youngest in class because I started kindergarten right before the deadline. I was a very personable and kind little girl. I always got along with my teacher and would always follow directions. I did everything and anything right, but reading was always an issue for me. Every parent teacher conference, my mom would come home and scold me by saying, “We need to start reading more! It’s very important to your future.” At the time, I felt that reading was nothing more than any other subject in school. As many times as I got told this, I never read anymore than what I did at school. My moms English was poor and by the time my dad got home, I was already in bed. It always seemed that my dad liked to be away at work more than being at home. My teacher, Ms. Annis, would always take more time on me than anyone else in my class. I knew I had to be the only one who needed this much help to read. Every other student knew what they were doing and all seemed unusually prepared.   I got off the bus one day after school and both my parents were standing at the bus stop waiting for me. As a little first grader, their were so many different thoughts running through my mind on what I could have done or, what I was accused of. As I was walking off the bus, my mom started to walk towards me while my dad stood behind her. Nervously walking up to my mom, she started whispering to my dad. I tried to listen, but she was too quiet for my ears to hear. While walking back to my house, my mom looked back at me and said, “We’re going to school to talk to your teacher. She asked to see us.” I couldn’t think of any other reason she’d want to see my parents, accept for my reading abilities. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach and my chest was strangely heavy. Before I could even set my stuff in my house, my mom told me to get in the car. While walking to the car, I could see my dad in the driver’s seat and also hear the ratty engine of my moms old GMC Envoy. The car ride was nowhere near graceful. I stared out the window, looking at every green, pine tree that we passed. While walking into the school, I felt the tension from my parents. Most of this had to be the fear I felt all throughout my body. Opening the heavy front doors and walking into the place I nearly dreaded, I just wanted to go home. Ms. Annis greeted us at the front entrance and we all walked to her room. This seemed like the walk of doom for me. It felt like this everyday because I never enjoyed school. She had a sparkly green tank top on and boot cut jeans. She was holding a clear clipboard that made her notes extremely clear. We all sat down in the mini colored chairs, which felt a lot smaller than usual. Before I could even sit down, or my parents, Ms. Annis decided to start the conversation.  With a content but concerned voice, she started speaking, “Holly has not shown much effort as others with our reading sections.” My mom was not surprised, but this was all new information for my dad. I kept looking over at my dad, knowing he was getting more and more disappointed with me as she kept speaking. “I have no reason to think that Holly cannot succeed, but I do recommend she starts going to speech therapy.” I didn’t understand what she meant. I had never heard of speech therapy before. Of course, my parents were all in for it. Ms. Annis continued to inform us that she thought my reading abilities weren’t as high because Polish was my first language. She explained to my parents and I that I would be able to leave class for 45 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Everytime I would ask a question, or try to, I would get interrupted by someone else. The rest of the meeting went pretty well and I wasn’t expecting to start this new “speech therapy” thing until the following week. Fast forward to the next day, which happened to be Thursday. I walked into class that day with a great attitude and ready to take on the day. This Thursday felt no differently for me until about 1:15. I was quietly working on what we were assigned when I suddenly felt Ms. Annis tap on my shoulder and asked for me to come outside of the classroom. “Today is your first day of speech therapy. Usually a teacher will be out here waiting for you by 1:15, but today you will have to find it yourself. She is located in room 134,” Ms. Annis announced. Without being able to process what she said, my immediate reaction was to start to become nervous.  I started walking to room 134, repeating the numbers in my head over and over, “134, 1-3-4. 134.” When I finally forced myself to walk in, I was greeted by a little lady, with a sweet smile. The one thing I noticed right away was how beautiful her nails were. They were painted magenta and as healthy as they could ever be. As I sat down at the small ovaled and yellow table, I noticed I wasn’t the only one here. Their were 4 other people here, ones that I’ve seen roam around the hallways just like me. My nerves started to settle down, until she started explaining what this was mostly about and why we were here. “All of you are here because of speech problems, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but we all have to work on it together!” I still didn’t understand the concept of what speech therapy was completely. I did not see the connection it had with reading. Throughout every Tuesday and Thursday, I realized more and more how my speech wasn’t as great as others because of my language barrier. I learned over the weeks that my “ch” and “sh” sounds were causing me to not only pronounce words incorrectly, but also not able to understand words while I was reading. My speech therapy teacher, Ms. Lenfesty, always put others before me. Although I was still attending the therapy, I never got actual hands on hands help. I went day by day with the homework I was assigned, not being able to understand what I was supposed to do. I would go home every time I got new assignments and stare at the pages. My dad would walk in after he got home from work and yell, “HOLLY, you better get that done for your next appointment! It’s important for you to continue and try to help yourself.” He always treated me as if I was a tough, 30 year old man, myself. He never had much sympathy and also thought things came easy to everyone. I could never finish my homework because my teacher was no help when I was with her. She never showed up when we had to and helped the ones who had bigger problems than I did. I never learned anything, but I was forced to attend until 4th grade.Around the 3rd grade, I started to get teased for going to speech therapy. Everyone knew that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Holly left so she could go get taught what everyone else already knew. Snarky and rude comments came from their mouths, making me feel uncomfortable and putting pressure on myself. From, “Wow, she’s in 3rd grade and she can’t even properly read yet,” to all the laughing and teasing, I was getting fed up with it. I would come home and cry, trying to not only hide it from both my parents, but mostly my father. I knew if he saw me like this, he would tell me to “toughen up” and “get over it”. The teasing eventually stopped around the end of elementary school, but I still had a fear of reading in front of anyone and everyone.


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