Saturday, September 17, 2016

School Daze: Chapter 2

It was the hectic beginning of my last class of the day. Twenty-three sixth graders had jostled their way through the hall and into their seats in my room. "Record your homework," I reminded them routinely and then--" I stopped, spotting an anomalous sight. "T!" I said. "What're you doin' in here? You're not in my class!"

I paused. T looked upset. "I wish you were," I assured him, but your real teacher will be missing you. What class do you have now?"

With over a hundred kids on the team, by the second week of school, well honestly? By the second day of school I knew who T was, even though I didn't teach him. Not only did his behavior stand out a little in the halls, his teachers had shared several anecdotes to illustrate their concern about him.

My favorite T story came from the science teacher. A few days earlier, in the hubbub of changing seats for a group activity a student inadvertently pushed T, who turned around and punched the other kid in the head. "Hey now!" said my colleague to T. "We never put our hands on another person!" Then she turned to the other student with concern. "Are you all right? Did he hurt you?"

"I'm okay," the boy assured her, rubbing his head. "It didn't hurt."

T reached over and scratched his arm. "How about that?" he challenged him. "Did that hurt?"

Before I continue, let me assure you that the other student was fine, and I do not condone such behavior. But I do find T's reaction a little amusing, mostly because it is so far from the norm.

More than that, though, to me it showed how impulsive T was, and how little self-control he was able to exercise in that situation.

Back in my classroom, T looked panicky. "It was just a mistake!" he chanted over and over as he jumped out of his seat and started to pace.

"I know!" I assured him. "I think you're supposed to be right next door, though, in science."

"Yes!" he said.

"It's okay," I told him as I led him to the right place. "Kids get confused sometimes."

He sighed with relief as he entered the classroom.

Later I considered what his reality must be like: how out of focus must this new school be to him that he could sit, unaware, in a classroom he had never been in before with a teacher and kids he didn't know?

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