Friday, December 16, 2005

Everyone Needs a Place for Their Crap!

If your stomach is weak from the virus that is running rampant through the local classrooms then this recount of ten minutes out of a day dedicated to No Child Left Behind is not for you.

“Where do we store our crap?”

I looked at the 17-year-old-girl sitting across the table from me. It had been several months since a question from a student had thrown me. However, the confusion on my face had to be evident to her.

Shalay stared at me desperately waiting for words of explanation and wisdom. For reasons that did not escape me I was her favorite teacher. Not that she liked me, but she respected me because I never deviated from my stance with her. Young ladies act like ladies and young men act like gentlemen. Sure it is my interpretations of young men and women. However, I feel confident in my formative years of development.

“What crap are you talking about?”

I was sure her concerns were for her worldly possessions that she daily left in the singlewide mobile home. A mobile home she shared with her grandmother, great-grandmother, two sisters, one brother, but not her mother or father. Her mother was half-way through her second jail term for drug use and sale. It was anyone’s guess where her father was or who he was. Oh, did I forget to say that in addition to the above-mentioned people her 11-month-year-old baby also lived there? The father of the child, one of the finer alternative school students in Nashville, sometimes visited. Having him visit was preferable to him moving into the two-bedroom mobile home.

“You know, Poop!” she said with a small flash of embarrassment on her face.

For a fleeting moment I thought she was making a joke out of some comment by another student in the classroom. Then I realized she was asking about bodily functions. Perhaps I should have brushed the question off and discussed it later with her. However, the teacher reared its knowledgeable head inside me. I was sure this could be a biological, No Child Left Behind, Value Added, inspirational, educational moment. In a few minutes I would learn it was nothing more then the dying gasp of a delusion about saving the whales left over from my college career.

I easily slipped into my finest special education science teacher persona. My explanation was masterful. Employing graphic, but not obscene, details of the digestive system ending with a wonderful analogy of a school book bag and the colon. I leaned back in my padded desk chair and looked at Shalay’s newly educated face. Yes sir, what a lesson! The gazed on her face did little to confirm my posturing. It was a vacant and yet confused, This Child Left Behind, Little Value Added, uninspired, non-educational gaze.

“I thought it was stored in your testicles?”

I tried to shuffle around in my chair to avoid the question. This was not to be. Her gaze followed me no matter which way I turned. She could easily have been one of those paintings in your wealthy aunt’s house whose eyes followed you everywhere. My whole teaching career came down to this impromptu biology lesson.

“Ain’t it stored in your testicles,” Shalay asked again?

The two guys sitting quietly at the second table could no longer be silent. Their laughter exploded across the tables and washed across my dying biology lesson.

“What the hell are you talking about Shalay,” Teddy asked? “What the hell are your testicles attached to?”

Demonstrating no embarrassment and a wonderful anger control impulse, which she was not noted for, Shalay turned toward them. They both immediately became silent. The last thing either one wanted was to confront her physically.

“My testicles are attached to my baby’s daddy,” she said this with all the calm of a mature mother. “You don’t seem to have any attached to you.”

With that Shalay rose and exited the portable classroom. This left the two male students and me to digest our failures in different arenas of Special Education in public school.