Monday, October 09, 2006


Mandy is a wonderfully delightful freshman student. Describing her as a “country girl” does not even come close. She has a simply infectious personality and a sly smile. Whenever she enters my portable classroom it is always with a loud greeting for me. When I look at her she gets embarrassed, turns her face away and states, “Don’t look at me.”

“How was your weekend Mandy,” I ask each Monday at lunchtime? Without looking at me she generally goes into great detail about helping her mother clean the house, going to a hardware store with her mother’s boyfriend, and always ending with the time she spends with Troy. Troy would be her boyfriend of over two years. Mandy is fourteen, perhaps going on twelve-years-old. She appears to want to dress as the other girls in high school, but her family lacks the funds. At her age she continues to retain childhood “baby fat”, but is slowly changing. She is one of the many that come through my classes during the day that have not been diagnosed as needing Special Education services, but perhaps should have been? Today, Mandy quietly informed me she is two or three months pregnant.

Troy is eighteen-years-old and desperately trying to “hang-in” at high school so he can graduate with a Special Education diploma. He has many influences outside of school that try to pull him in many directions other then school. His mother died during his birth. His grandmother who has custody of him mostly raised him. Troy’s father lives in the next block. They spend some time together on weekends. His father married his girlfriend one month ago. Troy would never admit his feelings about his father’s marriage, but it hit him hard. In Troy’s world he enjoys bicycles, go-carts, scary movies and hates cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. He unquestionably loves Mandy and she loves him.

Mandy’s older brother, Gordon, is Troy’s best friend. The three are seldom apart. Some people believe that Gordon suffers from a severe speech impediment. Gordon does not think that he suffers at all. Gordon prides himself on being a redneck. Not in the historical meaning, but in the sense of what it has evolved in to. He likes pickup trucks, hunting, camouflage clothing and dipping snuff. Gordon, above all, loves his sister Mandy.

I struggle daily with Troy trying to understand the daily assignments from his different classes. We try to decipher math, define English, and not damage the world through environmental science. I live inside the delusion that he will pass the Gateway exams in all areas and not become one of the children left behind.

I’ve read through No Child Left Behind several times. Seldom do I find myself at odds with the “ideals” of the law. As much as I look through it I have yet to find Pregnant Mandy, Eighteen Troy, and Speech Impaired Gordon. They are not in the writings, but they are in schools all over the country. They get up every morning in dismal home lives, trudge to a school bus stop, wait for their ride, and come to the only place they may feel a degree of safety and acceptance. Will they be left behind? Probably, according to the law. Will they get something from the school environment that may help them in life? I have no doubt they will. What each gets remains a mystery to me. I knew, after many years of being away from the schools I attended, what I came away with to help my struggle through life.

“How does your mother feel about you having a baby Mandy,” I asked?

“She’s okay with it. She’s kind of wrapped up in her own thing,” she said.

“How do you feel about having a baby?”

“Troy and I are so happy and in love.”

“You going to stay in school after you have the baby?”

“Of course. Troy won’t graduate, but he loves me. We’re never going to have a million dollars, but we’re going to have each other and our baby.”

“It’s going to be tough out there in the real world, Mandy.”

“So? I know!”

“Yeah, I believe you do.” I said, as she left for fifth period health class.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Change is fine as long as you’re not there when it happens! It’s moving week at my school. The county threw a bone to one of the oldest high schools by allocating building and renovation funds. Originally, the newest high school in the county (five years old) was to receive a major renovation and upgrade. The cries from the PTO parents and the demonstrating at the school board meetings resulted in additional funds for my school. A band room expansion, a couple of science labs, and a brand spankin’ new school office, and perhaps even air conditioning for the gym.

The result of this decision was the impending movement of mine and four other portable classrooms to make way for the construction crews and equipment. I understand the necessity of making way for progress. Originally, the principal wanted us moved to the northeast section of eighty-eight acres, just beyond a parking lot. Out of sight, out of mind. This was the plan until it was pointed out by an assistant principal that the students had only six minutes to walk to the other end of the campus when changing classes. The time was measured and it was discovered that ten minutes was required.

Okay, new plan. Now my twenty-one year old portable would be located just behind the second largest building in a parking lot. This was fine until it became evident that parking for football supporters would be greatly decreased. The final placement suggestion had always been referred to as the, “There is no way I’m having portables parked in my damn courtyard!” principal’s decree.

I’ve walked among the two-foot tall wooden stakes driven into the school’s courtyard. Each one outlined by spray paint on the grass marking the corners of each of the five portables to be moved. The county maintenance department has decreed that the only placement suitable shall be the courtyard. I’ve counted the trees to be cut down and they only number fourteen.

This Monday morning is the first day of the fall break. No students are around. No teachers. Not even football supporters are present. I walked through the courtyard this morning with my camera to begin recording the “Great Move of 2006”. Many of my students wanted to see how it would all be accomplished, but live to far away to be there. I quietly whistled “They Paved Paradise and Put Up A Parking Lot” as I snapped digital pictures of the portables, the courtyard, and the trees. It was 10:00 A.M. in the morning and I was alone. No movers, utility workers, wire stringers, or lumberjacks were present. The migrating geese flying overhead and me enjoyed the fall morning. I wondered how many days it would take to relocate five classrooms? Luckily, we had placed all breakables, e.g. computers, monitors, and televisions on the floor so only the unbreakable items could fall on them when the move came.

It was decided that it would take two weeks beyond the one-week fall break to complete the move. The principal decided to attend two training conferences during this time. When he returns I’m sure the move to the courtyard will be his original idea and the portables will look just wonderful where they are.

Change is fine as long as you’re not there when it happens!