I Did That
by JD DeHart
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 ear.
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 attempts.
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 the expression.
Again, the dark-haired kid did not say much. But at the end of the day, he mumbled something that sounded like, See you tomorrow.
That next day, there were three more students gone. All sick, according to calls home. The principal assured the young teacher that this was not common.
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 did that.
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.
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