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.


  1. The extremely other sad part of your story is I have younger versions of Mandy, Troy, and Gordon in my classes. What mystifies me is even at 9 or 10 there is absolutely no motivation to improve their situation by rising above it through education. Now I know that some because of handicaps may never be where we would like them to be academically, however, we both know there are a multitude of kids who you see who can improve their lot in life. It just seems at some point they give up and accept their lot.

  2. Anonymous7:37 AM CST

    Let us not forget Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I don't know how any of these kids can meet higher needs when their most basic ones are not met. I've got students who go home to neighborhoods where shootings are common place. Are you really going to worry about your project on industrialization when you don't know who's going to get "popped" tonight?