More and more inclusion classes are added as the school year progresses. Although Melody reminds readers that “‘inclusion’ doesn’t mean I’m included in everything,” she’s still excited to sit in classes, change classrooms, and have kids greet her in the hallways. Still, Melody is frustrated that she is unable to participate in class, since she cannot speak and cannot raise her hands.
Although she’s technically included in more and more classes as the school year goes on, often Melody doesn’t feel like an authentic member of the class. It’s difficult for her because, while she can keep up intellectually, from the outside it looks as though she isn’t interacting with the material at all.
In October Melody’s parents meet with Mrs. Shannon for a conference. Mrs. Shannon makes it clear that she knows how smart Melody is, and she commits to finding Melody a “mobility assistant” who will function as a personal aide. Melody’s aide arrives the next day. Her name is Catherine and they immediately start talking and joking. Melody wants to make fun of Catherine’s bright clashing outfit, but worries that she’ll sound too mean. It’s difficult for her to say anything subtle or complex.
Mrs. Shannon once again demonstrates that she is on Melody’s team, and that she will fight for opportunities for her. Catherine becomes another member of Melody’s extended family. She is someone who, although not biologically related to Melody, cares about her wellbeing, and goes out of her way to help her succeed.
Melody is now in a language-arts class, too. The teacher, Miss Gordon, is young and energetic. She plays games with the students, like vocabulary bingo. Melody knows all the words but can’t move fast enough to compete. Miss Gordon teaches in an empathetic way—when she teaches about Anne Frank, the students squeeze into a small space to feel how Anne really felt. Although Melody can’t participate, she understands the idea. Miss Gordon also gives Melody books on tape. Although Melody can read, it’s easier for her to listen. Eventually, Miss Gordon assigns a long-term biography project. While the other kids ask specific questions about how long it’ll take or how hard it will be, Melody is just excited to be able to participate in regular classes.
Miss Gordon’s style of teaching—having children try to experience the hardships of Anne Frank—is similar to Sharon Draper’s writing style, which tries to get readers to empathize with Melody by having them, through her first-person narration, step into Melody’s mind and Melody’s experience. The Anne Frank activity also underscores the basic differences between Melody and many of her classmates. While they have to try hard to imagine what it would be like to live a life where you feel trapped, Melody experiences these feelings every day.
Catherine makes it so Melody can take tests. During spelling tests Melody points to letters and Catherine writes them down. One day Claire accuses Melody of cheating and suggests that Melody’s life is easier than either Claire or Molly’s because Melody has a personal aide.
This is one of many examples of Claire and Molly failing to understand how much harder Melody’s life is than theirs. What they fail to understand is that, although Melody sometimes gets extra assistance, it’s because physically she cannot do as much as Molly or Claire, and so special accommodations, while improving the quality of her life, still do not make it as easy as Molly or Claire’s.
Melody is now also able to take a history class. Although the teacher, Mr. Dimming, isn’t as fun as Mrs. Gordon, Melody likes the class even more. Mr. Dimming isn’t very popular with the student body, but Melody thinks it’s unfair. Melody knows he’s really smart, and she respects that he runs the school’s quiz team.
Melody initially likes Mr. Dimming because students underestimate him, just like they do with Melody. In the same way that Melody’s disability can distract from her intelligence, Mr. Dimming’s fashion sense and personality distract from how bright he is.
In history class Melody works hard to memorize the presidents and vice presidents. She does well on the test, getting an 85% even though Mr. Dimming suspiciously checks to see if Catherine is helping her. Rose, who is also in the class, is disappointed to get a 75%. When Rose asks Melody her score, Melody mixes up the numbers and points to 58%. Rose is sympathetic, but she consoles Melody in front of the entire room so everyone assumes Melody did poorly. She can’t explain to Rose her mistake, so Melody just thanks her, and is happy that Rose touches her arm goodbye. In the afternoon, Melody has to return to H-5. Mrs. Shannon is out sick, so Melody watches The Lion King (again) and sits through an addition lesson (again). Melody wonders about whether she’ll ever learn long division, and what her new friend Rose is doing this afternoon.
Mr. Dimming’s class provides Melody one of her first opportunities to showcase her intelligence. Because of a small slip up, Rose and her other classmates assume she performed much worse than she actually did. Everyone’s acceptance of Melody’s lower score demonstrates that they don’t expect much out of her academically, even Rose, her friend. Back in H-5, Melody is forced to wonder whether because she is in classes for students with disabilities she will miss out on important knowledge that her fifth-grade peers are receiving. For her, immersion is partially about feeling included, but also about being able to keep up intellectually.