When I was eight years old, I lost my voice and became a mute overnight. My beautiful picture

It was one of the toughest times of my life and I was constantly getting into trouble at school from one fight to another.

At the time, my dad found a new job so my family and I left our hometown and traveled thousands of miles to San Francisco.

I started fourth grade at Redding Elementary School, a small redbrick schoolhouse that smelled like a combination of instant coffee beans and refried beans from burritos. It’s a distinct smell that I can still vividly recall today.

During my third week into school, the kids at my table noticed that I don’t speak so they decided to play a prank on me.

A skinny boy with dark long hair who sat across from me asked, ”Can I see your Mazinga Robot paper pad?”

I nodded my head and slid over my favorite cartoon character across the wooden desk. He grabbed my pad, took a look at it and stuffed it into his backpack.

I was shocked to see what just happened. I wanted to ask for my robot back but I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t even raise my hand and said, “Teacher, he took my pad.” I left home pretty angry that day.

Days go by and these bully kids would find new ploys to pick on me. They know that I can’t speak and therefore threw me under the bus for the things I didn’t do. I became the kid that gets blamed for everything.

Anything that went wrong, “Allan did it. He’s the guilty one. Shame on him,” as a fair skin girl points her index finger at me. I became the class’ mascot, The Sacrificial Lamb.

I find myself in detention hall every other day and I have to stay an extra hour after school sitting there at my desk wondering what I did wrong.

My teacher would send me home with notes like “Allan doesn’t pay attention in class and he is always causing trouble with other students.”

The misunderstanding and scapegoat pointing became a vicious cycle because I would fight back against these bullies for the things I didn’t do. Most times, I would visit the friendly principal’s office followed by more scolding from Mrs. Chen.   

Six months in to school, I got into a fight with a freckle classmate wearing a blue plaid shirt during recess. Fists were trading back and forth as he and I duked it out while other kids watched us at the schoolyard. He grappled me into a headlock with his right arm and around and around we turn as I tried to free myself. During the wrestling match, I slipped and my right blue Adidas shoe came loose.

When I untangled myself from his vise, the boy ran towards my shoe.  He picked my sneaker up, hurled it across the schoolyard, pass the 7 foot red metal picket fence and onto the adjacent one-way street.

One of the teachers came over to break our fight up.  Soon after, the recess bell rings and everyone except for me went back to class.

I looked for a near by green wooden bench and sat there dumbfounded. I didn’t know how to get my shoe because kids were not allowed to go outside the fence without adult supervision. At the same time, I watched 5 passing cars driving down Frank Norris Street crushing my shoe.

Metal Picket FenceI felt defeated and I thought to myself how much I hated school.

As I sat there with my head down, a woman in her early 40s with blonde hair comes over and asked, “Why are you not in class? Why are you sitting here?”

I shrugged my shoulders and I couldn’t speak. She asked me again but this time her voice was firmer and louder.

I lifted my head, looked up at her with my teary eyes and said, “I don’t speak English.

I don’t speak English”, was the only English sentence I knew.

The woman custodian said something else I couldn’t understand so I pointed m finger at my shoeless foot.

She asked me, “Where is your shoe?”

I pointed my finger towards narrow ally of Frank Norris. Together, she held right my shoulder and we hopped across the schoolyard, open the rusty metal picket gate and fetched my right blue Adidas.

I went home that night upset and told my dad what happened at school.

I said, “Dad, I’m done with school. I am not going back. I hate the school here and I hated it here.

In Taiwan, I was getting straight A’s. In America, I was getting straight F’s in every subject except for Math and Art.”

Dad looked at me with kind and compassion eyes. He knew that I was in pain but he doesn’t know how to quite help me.

Instead of telling me I have to go back to school, he said, “Son, what can I help you with so that other kids can’t pick on you anymore?”

I said, “I feel like I’m always the one to blame even when it’s not my fault.

Dad says, “I’m going to teach you these two words so listen carefully.”

He paused for a moment and said, “Not Me!”

I repeated after him several times saying, “Not me!”

A few weeks later, I found myself in the center of attention again. Someone had opened a broken window at the back of our classroom when we weren’t supposed to. Our teacher was furious and wanted to know who opened the window.

One of the kids pointed at me and said, “Allan did it.”

My teacher stormed towards me, leaned over my desk, looked at me with her fury eyes and started yelling at me.

That was the day when I stood up and said, “Not me!”

My teacher took a step back.

And again I said, “Not me!”

I took her and the rest of the class by surprise that I actually spoke. I have a voice and I am no longer the victim bullies easily picked on.

Since the incident, I still got into fights, but those bullies had to think twice before picking on me again.

And a year later and a new teacher, I was still a regular attendee in after school detention program. Except this time, I got in trouble because I can’t stop talking in class. 

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