The Boy Who Boomed and Spat

A quick, double-knock at our special ed classroom’s door. I rise to answer it, but before I can even get up and out from behind my small-group teaching table, an adult hand has opened the door partway, shoved a boy through fast enough to make him stumble, and shut the door again quickly.

I have never seen the boy before. The students yell out “He’s a new student, Teacher!” In one connected set of motions, I quickly give him a big smile and welcome him to our class as I seat him with paper and markers–and rush out the door.
The boy’s mother is hurriedly making her escape.
Empty Womans Clothes
She returns only at my insistence. I introduce myself and say how happy I am to have her son in my class. She looks at me, puzzled, and–could it be?–amused? Her invisible escape foiled, she now strolls leisurely away without even introducing herself.
It is not a language-barrier issue. The family speaks only English at home.
Within a day, I decide–fairly or not–this parent cares not a fig for the child that once came from between her legs.
The new boy’s name is Donald. The Office had known he was expected this day. They didn’t think it was important to inform me, his teacher—the one who has to find desk space, textbooks, and supplies for the new student, plan lessons to include his needs, and help the other students–always unnerved by changes to routine–adjust to his presence.
And that will take some adjusting.
I am five feet seven inches tall and weigh 125.
Our new student, at ten years old, is 5’10” and over 180 lbs. A big body like a man’s, with a deep, booming voice like a man’s. (He is, likely, a man, biologically: Many inner-city children begin puberty today before they are double-digits in age.)
Donald pushes his big man’s weight around: Body slamming the other students, and me, against desks, tables, cabinets, and walls. He yells extremely loudly in his booming voice all day long. Donald also has an endearing habit of spitting into the eyes of those he is upset with.
Initially, Donald is upset with everyone.

Unhappy Light-Skinned Black Teen Boy Staring

(Not the Actual Donald.)

It is easy to understand why: This “5th-grader” has never held a pencil properly or written his own name. Yet, until he joined our class, he had been left in regular-ed classrooms every year–“mainstreamed”–and “socially promoted” each year with regular-ed students, to stay within his age level, rather than his skill level. Left alone, in the midst of these students, year after year, without any extra assistance.
Imagine being in over your head day after day, year after year, with no one helping you succeed. No wonder he is so angry.
While I feel great sympathy for Donald, it is clear that this oversized boy with the terrible temper is going to be a danger if we cannot get him some one-on-one assistance. Just his spitting is tremendous cause for concern in these days of serious drug-resistant health threats.
I ask the office for a second assistant—I have learned that Special Ed teachers can mandate additional helpers for special cases like Donald’s. I am told no help is available.
Only several months later, after my continued insistence, is another assistant finally provided.
How outrageous is it that I had to demand repeatedly that this issue be addressed? How much effective learning do you think has gone on in my classroom in the meantime?
And here is an interesting little side note:
Two days after Donald was first thrust at me through my door, a paper form was thrust at me by one of the Office staff.
“What’s this?”
“You need to sign this.”
“What is it?”
“You just need to sign it.”
When I press for an answer, I’m told that it states that I am aware the new boy in my class caused severe problems in his prior school. But the form not only does not describe the nature of the previous misbehavior. It provides no space to describe it.
“What did Donald do at his previous school?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why would I sign a form that tells me absolutely nothing?”
The District’s Legal team apparently believes that, if I sign this form, the District will be absolved of all responsibility should anyone be injured on my watch.
This, despite the fact that I was offered no choice in whether or not to accept Donald into my classroom.
Just Sign the Damn Thing Wolf
Of course, I refused to sign the form!
A former therapist indicated that she believes I suffer from PTSD. Caused by my seventeen years spent under the roof of people who constantly yelled at and eventually often hit me and my siblings–in both predictable and unpredictable circumstances.
As an adult white-collar professional, the first time a fellow white-collar professional unprofessionally raised his voice in the office, I ducked.
I now recognize that being in that Special Ed classroom with body-slamming, booming-voiced Donald, stressful as it would have been for any person, was particularly so for me. Every time Donald’s voice suddenly blared out, I felt like running out of that half-sized storeroom/classroom screaming for help.
Frankly, it is not unreasonable to state that a year spent with Donald could have, in and of itself, caused a mild case of PTSD even in someone who had NOT been abused as a child.
There were thirteen other children stuck in that closet room with Donald. And Rey. Don’t forget Rey, he of the always-scooting desk and wandering scissors.
What loving parent could send their child off to school each morning knowing that these classmates were waiting for them? No one, if they had a choice. Most do not know. But our school administrators, who do know, have no problem consigning YOUR children to this hopeless hell.
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Books? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Books!

After the children, the second thing I notice about my new Special Ed classroom is that there are no books.

Okay, that is a slight exaggeration–but not much of one. There are History textbooks, but they’re years beyond the reading ability of even the school’s Regular Ed students. There is a small box of four-page booklets of less than 40 words each that my 5th grade students say they have been re-reading since 2nd grade.

No Books and No Learning Allowed

Does Anyone CARE About These Kids?

I learn that none of the children enjoy reading.
Are you surprised?
That weekend, I buy five copies each of storybooks popular with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders–most of the students read at only a 1st or 2nd grade level. Books like Amelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad, and Little Bear.
Frog and Toad Are Friends Cover

I Wish They Were MY Friends

Deputy Dan Book Cover

Loads o’ Fun, ‘Cause Loaded With Puns 🙂

I also buy Reading workbooks (from a series called “Spectrum”) at the same levels. On Monday, the children learn that reading can be fun. They love the new books, and are eager to read from then on.
I am told that an excellent rate of Reading progress in a Special Ed elementary class is one half-year of gain per each year in school. That year, some of my students are measured gaining a year.
Full of Myself Mug

My Coffee Has Never Tasted So Good

But I have now joined the supremely-stupid ranks of my fellow teachers: From this point on, I will continue to spend personal money to do my utmost for my students and their future success in life–to do more for this goal, in most cases, than their own parents care to.
I later learn that I shouldn’t entirely blame The District for not providing books. Classroom books can walk out the door with students, or with substitute teachers. Entire classroom libraries can leave when permanent teachers are transferred to other schools.
But four and a half years LATER, I learn—
Do you remember that, instead of putting me and my Special Ed kids in a classroom, they instead stuck us in a storage room? No window, no connecting door, and half the size of a regular classroom (violating District policy in all three of these failings)?
Small Meeting Room

Do You Feel Trapped In This Small, Windowless Meeting Room?

Well, my principal had to take something OUT of that storage room to move my kids INTO it. What she’d taken out was books. Discontinued textbooks for each grade level and subject. And supplemental books: Science books. History books. Art books. Music books. And, (you saw this coming, didn’t you?) matched sets of 4 or 5 books each of:
“Amelia Bedelia”.
“Frog and Toad Are Friends”.
“Little Bear”.
Fun-for-children books at every reading level. Books I could have used instead of spending my own money.
Irked Sheikh

It’s Not Like Money Just Bubbles Up Out of the Ground Or Anything

There was even an entire set of Spectrum Reading workbooks for each grade level. Enough for an every child to use, as long as each child used separate paper to write answers so that the books could be re-used.
The administrator who unlocked and let me into the smaller storage room some of those books had been moved to (the rest had been distributed elsewhere) let me borrow some of those fun reading books. And some excellent discontinued History books written in much simpler language than our currently-approved doorstoppers and paperweights. But she made me promise not to tell anyone.
Teachers were not allowed to teach using materials from inside that locked room.
Hand-Slapping Irked-or-Disappointed Baby

No. Just no. May I Please Choose a Different Parallel World?

I caught children often trying to exit my room with my books tucked into waistbands, etc., until I learned how to control this. (Students with good behavior were permitted to borrow books by signing them out.)

I was warned by fellow teachers about some substitutes walking out with books, and advised to lock away my own books when I knew in advance I’d have a sub. I’d guess some loss blamed on subs is due to them not noticing student theft–but not all of it, because of a specific instance that was related to me.

I was both told of classroom book supplies walking away, and observed it first-hand. I don’t believe these are thefts with evil intent, but teachers conserving resources for their next set of students. Possibly some feel justified in light of their own financial outlays.
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A Little Boy’s Too-Big Confession

Amon is always difficult.

When I first took over this class, the substitute had warned me:

“Amon is a dangerous SNAKE!”

I was shocked and dismayed to hear a teacher talk about her students that way. I was naïve enough, then, to reject the notion that any 10-year-old can act like a dangerous snake.

Boy With Snake On Head

If You Also Cannot Tell Boy From Snake, Boy Is One On Bottom

Amon IS always difficult–no snake–but today, something is really, really off. He has never been as out-of-control before. He actually squares off against me, planting his pint-sized body in front of me and raising his tiny fists.
(This same boy had punched my Assistant, Rose, quite hard in her arm a week earlier. The Office’s response? Nothing. Whatsoever. Remember, this is the District with a mandatory three-day suspension when a student issues a threat–but acts go unpunished.)

This time, I do convince Amon to make the wise choice of not throwing a punch MY way:

“Take a minute to think about it, Amon. Calm down, and think really hard, because there is no way I’m going to let a 10-year old kid punch me and get away with it. And I won’t be worrying about school rules, or my job, or anything else.”

(You’d best believe I’m brave and bold when facing down an opponent 1/4 my size and weight!)

Little Angry Hispanic-Perhaps-Latino Boy

WAY Too Impressive Here. Imagine Him Through the Wrong End of Binoculars, and You’ll Have the Proportions Right.

After a moment of think time, two skinny matchstick arms are lowered. After which, I call this miniscule boy outside our classroom door for a private conference.

“Amon—what’s going on today? Is something wrong?”

To my shock, this very macho gang member begins to cry. And cry, and cry, and cry, and then cry some more.

I let my assistant know what’s going on, and give her some assignments for the class while I wait to hear what Amon’s problem is. (This is difficult, because I must still monitor the class behavior through the open door, and this is one very active and trouble-prone Special Ed class.)

Amon is finally able to begin speaking:

“I think I did something wrong. Really wrong.”

I learn what happened, between choking sobs:

The day before, Amon was visiting his 8-year-old female cousin. The two children had been left together unsupervised the entire day. (No surprise, that.) During the afternoon, Amon had tried forcing his cousin into sex with him: Pulled off her pants, lay on top of her, and attempted penetration.

Boy and Girl Naked Dolls

A Mere Child, Merely Copying What He Has Been Shown

Tears and snot are running down his face this entire time while I pass tissues. I am pulling every hormone-choking trick of my own not to sob along with him.
Amon is feeling scared and ashamed. He always presents a tough guy front, but Amon knows that his actions went too far this time. He feels a healthy familial affection for his cousin, and is frightened and confused by what happened.
“Amon–Would you like to talk to someone about this? The school psychologist?” I ask, hardly daring to hope he’ll agree.

“Yes.” he answers almost immediately. This is one worried and guilty little boy.

I write up the gist of what Amon told me and give this to The Office. I fill out paperwork to inform Social Services of this reported sexual incident.
Have you already guessed that Amon is one of the three boys who have been continually humping the classroom furniture?

Perhaps someone from The Office should have intervened earlier.

Head In Sand

In Sand, or Up Somewhere Else?

From then on, Amon’s family–mother and aunts–was forced by social services to supervise its children all the time they were together–a rare time I saw Social Services do some good, and immediately. (His mother was furious at me.) Amon’s behavior improved slightly at school–either as a result of the talks with the psychologist, or as a result of the increased parental supervision.
I am wondering what movies Amon’s parents watched while he was around. I’m betting they weren’t all Disney flicks.

You SHOULD censor everything your children watch and read. Censorship is GOOD for children.

You are not denying them freedom they should have. You are GIVING them freedom:

A chance to thrive with age-appropriate behaviors, a healthy respect for adults, and a lack of unnecessary fear.

Why on earth do you parents think it’s okay to watch the evening news with your single-digit-aged children?

All they grow up with are disasters happening on every front. There was a good reason Mr. Rogers advised against allowing young children to watch the evening news during the Persian Gulf (Kuwait Invasion) War.

Why on earth do you parents think it’s okay for children under the age of 10 to watch “The Simpsons”?
Younger kids have no idea that Bart’s disrespect for everyone is supposed to be unrealistic.
They know it’s supposed to be funny, and they know he gets away with it.
What is THAT teaching them before they hit the classroom?

Our own little sons loved the Calvin and Hobbes comics.
Similar to Bart, Calvin is highly scornful of the adult world.
I love those comics, and I loved that my children loved them.
However, when I found my little five- and six-year-old boys imitating Calvin’s manner with the two of us, I accidentally “lost” all of their Calvin books until they were older. Oops. Gosh, boys, Mommy is SO sorry!

Don’t get me started on computer games and the internet.

You parents have a responsibility to control everything that goes into your children.
Children are little sponges.
And part of everything that goes into them STICKS.
Previous Non-Teaching Post (Humor/History):
Confession: No Longer Good For the Soul?
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Permission to Pee, Sir !

I have to urinate.

We are supposed to use the bathroom at 10:00 AM recess, and at 12:00 lunch. Unfortunately, even after post-childbirth surgery, I occasionally need to use the bathroom at other times, likely triggered by my Behcet’s disease, likely triggered by teaching in that environment).

The approved procedure for peeing outside of recommended times, as it was explained to me in my training, is to open the connecting door to the next classroom and ask the teacher there to take official responsibility for monitoring your class while you are away.

We have no connecting door. The Office has stuck me and my thirteen Special Education students in a large storage closet instead of a classroom.

However, even better than a teacher in the next room, I have an almost full-time assistant. My assistant is well-experienced and highly respected by me and by the administration—this is her sixth year helping such students. I ask Rose to watch the class while I run to the restroom.

I race down the outside corridor on my urgent mission. Before I reach my goal, the Assistant Principal appears from around a corner. She positively pounces:

“WHAT are you doing out of your classroom?!”.
“I have to use the bathroom.”

(child of abuse, here, being faced by a screamer).

“WHO’S watching your students ?!” she blares.
R-R-Rose,” I nervously stutter.

Her eyebrows can’t possibly go any higher.

“What were you THINKING!?
Only a certified teacher can watch your students!”

Then, she glares at me and spits out:

“Go back to your classroom IMMEDIATELY!”
“But…but…I really have to use the bathroom,” I manage to speak up.

Woman Holding In Pee

Like She Couldn’t TELL

Only then does she very begrudgingly allow me to pee, after sternly warning me that I must do it fast and hurry back.
Is THIS what my teaching year is to be like?

Is THIS how The Administration will treat me?

Is this how The District treats all its teachers?

It is very sad to me, on a personal level, looking back at this now:

That the woman who was once a confident white-collar professional, running projects, and meetings with Senior V.P.s, designing systems, travelling all over, managing people (only adequately, that last)–

Immediately reverted to the whipped, beaten, cowed puppy she was each time she was put into a new situation and faced with bullying. My abusive marriage negated any gains I’d made after my abusive childhood–with my Aspie social skills always willing to pitch in and hogtie a hand.
And this reaction is still my first instinct today. That is both sad, and infuriating. Makes me want to go out a kick a cat.



(THIS is why my friend Joey says I’m Satan. I was tempted–really and truly tempted–to leave the post like that, and hit Update, just to see what happened.)

I am KIDDING, y’all!
I would only give a kitty One Hard Look–really.

Dratted faustian felines and their sly little furry-footed ways…

Devious Cat No New Kitten

‘Nuff Said.

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Rey Is Once Again Trying to Cut His–

Rey is once again trying to cut his penis.

Rey, 11 years old, is a sweet, highly intelligent young boy with an extreme lack of self-control. He is in constant motion. He is a danger to himself and others.

He has inadvertently sent students and teachers tumbling down the stairs, knocked children over when swinging his backpack wildly about, and begun to tip himself over a second-story balcony railing while trying to look at the garden below. (I caught his ankle just as he toppled.)

When Rey is given a pencil, he chews on it and pokes himself with it on different places on his body until he punctures his skin. When given crayons, he chews off the paper and then eats the crayon itself. When given paints, he paints every object within reach—he helps out the brush by using his fingers and hands as well.


His Actual Desk

When given scissors…well, Rey can’t be given scissors, EVER, because he pokes himself with the points, including on his eyelids. He cuts his clothing and sometimes the skin underneath, including his genitals. (Somehow, he keeps managing to find scissors and smuggling them into class.)
When seated at his desk, Rey flings his arms and legs outward and scoots the desk noisily all about the room, several feet at a time. This has made it impossible for him to have a partner at the two-person desk. If Rey scoots too close to another student’s desk, he reaches into their belongings and treats them as destructively as his own.

I spend a great deal of the day moving Rey away from others. The isolation and difference from other students depresses him.

Despite Rey’s challenging behaviors, his intelligence shines forth. He is sometimes able to concentrate for fairly extended periods when working alone—particularly in testing conditions of total silence.

Rey’s work on the annual writing assessment merits a grade of B. This is especially impressive because the assessment isn’t even normally administered to English learners. (I had decided to give it to Rey because I had suspected that he would excel.)

Obviously, this poor kid’s impulsivity loses him friends and gets him into difficulties outside of the classroom. Rey recently spent some time in police boot camp after he decided it would be fun to throw large cement chunks at passing car windshields.

Rey has frequently expressed self-loathing when his behaviors get out of hand. He is a highly intelligent, sensitive and often considerate boy in a great deal of difficulty.

Let’s look to Rey’s family for help, shall we?

Rey’s father tells him he is ugly and dumb. Rey is handsome, but has a skin condition that causes a mottled complexion.

Let’s look to medical professionals, shall we?

Doctors have recommended medication for Rey’s obvious ADHD symptoms. Good for them! But his loving, compassionate father refuses.

What does the school system do for a boy like Rey?

Well, other than putting him a Special Ed classroom and leaving him to his own devices, absolutely nothing.


Despite our sympathy for Rey, let’s look around him for a moment:

Why are the other children in my class subjected to Rey’s presence?

Why is no one concerned with their learning or safety?

We all know how little learning would occur for each of us if we were in a room with Rey all day.

We all know how uncomfortable we adults would feel with Rey near us.

How would you like your child to be seated next to him?

At the time I left teaching, years ago, there were plans to eliminate Special Ed classrooms and place all special-needs children into regular classrooms.

I believe that, just as a court can order administration of insulin for a diabetic child, in such obvious cases of extreme ADHD that a child is a danger to itself and others, the poor kid should be rescued from abusive, neglectful parents and have court-mandated medication–and until that is done, the child should NOT be accepted into government-funded school facilities. When I am made King of the World (I have gender-neutralized the noun “king”, since it is perceived to be more powerful than “queen”), this shall be one of my many edicts.
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