When he entered the classroom, the well-meaning teacher with his
alternative certificate and short experiences did not know what to expect.
Fifteen young faces greeted him. That first day, he had planned some icebreaker
activities, just the sort of get-to-know-you fluff that usually occurs on the
first day of school.
One by one, the children said their names until he arrived at
the second to last boy, a kid with dark hair who had seemingly clung to the
corner of the room like a spider.
The boy only mumbled something, barely answering the question.
Excuse me? the teacher asked. When no answer followed, he awkwardly
moved on to the next kid, making a mental note to call home. Later that day,
the familiar ring that listed the number as out of service would play in his
The young teacher observed as the students went through their
activities, took their pretests, and then shuffled on home. At times, the
dark-haired kid would seem to disappear and then the teacher would find him
again. All day, not a word passed between them in spite of the teachers
His brief training program did not seem to help.
The next day, two students were missing, their names on the
absence list. The teacher wondered if this was a common occurrence, since every
day at school was an important one in his book. Calls placed home let him know
that the children were very, very sick. Throwing up all night, was
Again, the dark-haired kid did not say much. But at the end of
the day, he mumbled something that sounded like, See you
That next day, there were three more students gone. All sick,
according to calls home. The principal assured the young teacher that this was
Finally, the dark-haired kid came out of his shell. After each
phase of the lesson, on through reading and then into specials and finally into
math, he would announce, I did that when the task was completed. It
became annoying.A cadence of I did that, I did that,
I did that.
The young teacher asked the office after the students had gone
home if they had a working number for the kid, but there was none to be
found.The principal assured him they would schedule a conference as soon as she
could catch the kids parents in the car line.
The last day of class, the dark-haired kid was hell, and two
more kids were missing.He ran around the room, pushed other kids down, and
refused to do his work.The teacher recalled his training about framing his
expectations positively, but this did not help.He resisted his certification
and tried a simple desist strategy.He tried threatening.
Finally, he went to his classroom phone. The number rang as not
in service. I did that, he heard over his shoulder. He ran to
the door to go to the office on foot, but there was no door, only a wall, and
when he spun to reach the door on the other side, it moved again. I
The other students seemed to shuffle away, out of sight.
Finally, he tried to reach inside for the only sanity he had
left, a small bit of hope to cling to, but it too disappeared.
I did that, the kid said, and the room slipped away,
and the world slipped away, and there was only him and the dark-haired kid who
was really starting to come out of his shell.