Every student has a personal story. Author and motivational speaker, Anthony Hamilton’s is one of inner turmoil and frustration stemming from the inability to read. It didn’t help that the adults in his life were not supportive of his needs. He says “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.”

Sadly, things were no more therapeutic for Hamilton at school than they were at home:

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. He knew 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.

Moments like these never leave our children. They form wounds that live on in their minds as they grow to adulthood. Sometimes those wounds become scars that mark a past full of regrets and pain. Other times they become beauty marks.

For Hamilton, a chance meeting with Mr. Cheech proved he had triumphed over the hurt of his childhood.

I was 41 years old when I flew back to Texas to visit friends and family. On my way from the airport, my best friend suggested we have a drink at a nearby bar. As my friend and I sat at the bar, I saw someone across the smoke-filled room. It was Mr. Creech, leaning over to buy himself a drink. I rushed over and reached into my pocket to pay for him. “Do I know you?” he asked. “Yes, sir, you do know me,” I answered. “My name is Anthony Hamilton, and I was in your fourth-period class.” The look on his face told me that he remembered the boy he’d once shamed. “I’m so glad I had a chance to see you,” I said. “And Mr. Creech, I have great news to share.” I told him. I had learned to read. But that wasn’t all. I had become a published author and a motivational speaker. I told him I wanted him to do me a favor.He asked what it was. “The next time you get another Anthony Hamilton in your classroom, please teach him how to read.”

How eternally simple. Teachers need to teach, and remember the dangerous impact of not doing so.

Read the full story at Ozy.com.

Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.



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