We have a student this year who is way different than any other child I've ever taught. It was noticeable from the earliest weeks of school. "What's with that guy?" someone asked at one of our first team meetings. "If he wasn't a sixth grader, I'd swear he was stoned." It really does seem like he's doing a spot-on impression of Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. His eye lids are half-mast, his speech is slow and deliberate until it fades off into silence in the middle of an answer or a question. He's spacey and confused, and even now, in March, he shows up to my class at the wrong time.
In September, he was new to our district, and it was months before we got any records on him. His parents weren't that helpful-- they were a little surprised at our concern. Over time, his frustration has mounted, because he's having a tough time being successful. He's unfocused, disorganized, and lately extremely impulsive. He's been acting out in our classes. The principal came into my room yesterday to deliver a message. "Excuse me," she said, as she entered. Behind her back, he stood, and wagging his head in mockery, repeated her words under his breath. My eyes widened; my jaw dropped. She didn't realize what was going on, and he stopped when I caught his eye.
As you might expect, we're going through the special education referral process with him, but every day there is another tale of his antics. Despite his outrageous conduct (or let's be honest, because of it), we LOVE this kid. A couple of months ago, we found out what is probably the underlying cause of his behavior. He was exposed to lead when he was a toddler, and after doing some research, it turns out that his actions and affect are all in line with lead poisoning. Wow, I simply had no idea what a profound effect lead could have on a kid, and now I wonder how many teachers do.