In her dreams, Melody can do everything she can’t do when awake. She can walk and run, play, and sing. She has friends that she can speak to, and she calls them on the phone. In the morning she’s disappointed to face reality where she can’t walk or talk.
Back in the real world, Melody goes to elementary school and thinks back on all the classroom aides she has had over the years. Normally there’s one male aide to help the boys, and one female aide to help the girls. The aides take the students to the bathroom, help them eat, and wheel them around the school. Melody doesn’t think the aides make a lot of money, especially since they often quit their jobs, but she believes “they should get a million dollars. What they do is really hard.”
Melody values the work the classroom aides put in to make sure that she and her fellow students in H-5 can be comfortable and happy, which allows them to learn better. The aides, and especially Catherine (whom Melody meets later) are part of the extended family that supports Melody and allows her to thrive.
Keeping good teachers is hard, too, but in the second-grade Melody had Mrs. Tracy, who noticed Melody liked to read and gave her audiobooks to listen to during class. When Melody tossed books that were too easy on the floor, Mrs. Tracy understood and gave Melody more challenging books. After Melody had listened to something, Mrs. Tracy would quiz her on it, and Melody got every question right.
Mrs. Tracy is one of the few, rare teachers who sees Melody’s intelligence and potential. Like Mrs. V, she understands the importance of keeping Melody, engaged, stimulated, and constantly learning.
Melody’s third grade teacher, Mrs. Billups, was not good. Either Mrs. Tracy didn’t communicate the students’ needs to Mrs. Billups, or Mrs. Billups didn’t look at the notes, but she treated her students like babies, although they were seven or eight years old. She seemed to think teaching students with disabilities would be easy, which wasn’t true. She played lullabies and children’s songs every morning, over and over, and went over the alphabet, which Melody—who could read well—clearly already knew.
Unlike Mrs. Tracy, Mrs. Billups is unable to see the potential of her students. Although Melody is especially gifted, all of the students in H-5 are curious enough to benefit from stimulation, and from a teacher who actively tries to engage them. Unfortunately Mrs. Billups is not only boring, but she is hurting Melody’s chances to grow academically and develop intellectually.
Eventually, Melody and the other students in H-5 became frustrated with Mrs. Billups treating them like they didn’t know or understand anything. One morning they all revolted; Maria threw crayons, and Melody screeched and cried until she had one of her “tornado explosions.” Mrs. Billups couldn’t control Melody or the class, so she called the principal and then Melody’s mother.
Melody and her classmates are bored and frustrated by Mrs. Billups’ lessons. Mrs. Billups assumes her students can’t learn, but actually they are stuck, unable to communicate that they can learn. Here, Melody’s tornado explosion is the result of her inability to say in words what she wants and needs.
When Melody’s mother arrived she asked Melody what was wrong. Melody pointed to the alphabet mounted on the wall and her mother understood that Melody, and the other students in the room, were bored by the lessons. Melody’s mother confronted Mrs. Billups, and explained that it was frustrating for the students to be taught the same lesson day after day. Mrs. Billiups was defensive at first, but began to understand. Still, she told Melody’s mother that she was being unrealistic about her daughter’s abilities. Melody’s mother acknowledged Melody’s physical limitations, but continued to argue that she was intelligent, which Mrs. Billiups would know had she paid attention. The argument ended when Melody’s mother broke the CD with the children’s songs in half. All the students in H-5 were grateful, especially Melody.
Melody’s mother understands her daughter in a way most other people do not. On one level, she believes that Melody is trying to communicate with her, and she listens to what Melody is saying. On another level, Melody’s mother understands how intelligent Melody is, and therefore she realizes how bored and trapped Melody must feel so much of the time. By advocating for Melody, her mother demonstrates the importance of family bonds and trust within families, and she pushes back against Mrs. Billups’ ignorant assumption that just because Melody and her classmates can’t easily communicate, they must not be able to learn at all.