Excerpt from Finding My Breath: My Journey from OCD to Yoga by Rochelle Lynn Falack:
It's one thing to think you're not as good as the other kids. It's another thing to get it in writing.
Third grade was over and now we would be moving on to the fourth. "Class, I'm going to go around the room and pass out your report cards," Mrs. Korman told us. "Please take them home and have your parents sign them."
She walked down the aisles and handed me mine without even looking in my direction. I flipped open the card and saw my grades. They were all C's. Then I looked at the back of the card to see my class assignment for the following year. 403, it said. I was to report to class 403 next year. I looked at it again to make sure I wasn't misreading it. The numbers seemed wrong to me.
I knew what 403 meant. Everyone knew about 403. That was the stupid class. No, not just the stupid class. That was for the kids that were so stupid that there was something wrong with them, so stupid that you couldn't tease them but could only feel bad for them. I didn't know how this could have happened. I didn't know what my mom and dad were going to say.
I tried to be positive about it. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I didn't know anyone in the third grade stupid class, but maybe there would be a familiar face coming with me.
I went around the room, asking everyone what class they would be going to. I asked the smart kids. Then I asked the normal kids. Then I asked the other kids who did bad in class. A few students had been bumped up into 401, the gifted track. Almost everyone I tagged along with at lunch had graduated to 402. No one else had been sent to 403. No one else was that stupid, that much of a failure.
Then I remembered there was one other person to ask. We didn't often notice Miriam, sitting in her wheelchair in the front of the room by the door. None of the kids made fun of her because she had Down syndrome; we just felt sorry for the poor girl whose disability was so extensive. I walked over and asked Miriam what class she was going into. "403!" she said, showing me her report card.
I would have a familiar face with me after all.
I walked back to my seat and started to cry. I couldn't understand. I couldn't believe that Mrs. Korman thought of me the same way she thought of Miriam, literally putting me in the same class as her. I wasn't just slow or dumb or underachieving. I was beyond hope, in her eyes. The numbers were written in pen. It was official, not just some vibe I got from her.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5...I counted over and over, forcing myself to calm down before everyone figured out what was happening. It was not the first time I was glad that the rest of the class didn't usually notice me or what I was doing.
I got up and went to Mrs. Korman. "How could you?" I said to her. "How could you put me in 403 with Miriam?"