Sunday, May 21, 2006


As most teachers can testify students come and students go. Occasionally one will linger in your thoughts after graduation, that special academic scholar, the class leader, a star athlete, an outstanding musician, or a student that brightens your first period each day. This year the student that I will miss is none of these. Most of the time BB is a pain in the rear. He seldom spoke English. Screaming to get your attention was his favorite form of communication. Spaghetti O's is his lunch of choice every day. Standing a mere five feet tall, with very thick glasses, most teeth missing, and the worst chapped lips on the planet BB had the general look of a 70-year-old-man. Oh, did I mention his bowed legs?

At 6:20 A. M., every school morning, the yellow short bus deposited BB on the sidewalk outside of the school annex building. Some mornings he would leap from the bus and run head long into me, screaming, "BB, BB". We would hug before he attempted to explain the toy soldier he always carried. Frequently it was the same soldier. He tried to explain something different about the toy. Then with the abandonment of a puppy, I stopped existing, and he would run into the annex.

Some school mornings he chose to ignore me. He acted out imagined anger that went on for hours. By lunch again he ran headlong to get a hug. On some days he would "hide" under the cafeteria dining table until I acknowledged his prank. BB will graduate this year at the age of eighteen. His grandmother and lifelong guardian decided BB would travel America with her husband and herself in an RV. BB could stay in high school until he turned twenty-two, but the time has come for him to see America.

At 8:30 A. M. I watch from my portable classroom as BB slams through the glass annex doors running to get aboard the yellow short bus. BB participated in the school-to-community work program. His favorite job sight was the Food Lion grocery store. He was also a favorite of theirs. On the event of a man making fun of BB while bagging the man's grocery the manger refunded the customer's money and told him not to return to the store. With the help of a job coach BB loved to work. His favorite assignment was moving food carts back into the store. He was a vision. His five-foot, one hundred pound frame trying to maneuver a string of fifty carts across a busy parking lot was entertaining to the customers. He never lost control of the carts. The parked cars were always safe.

The lesser memory I have of BB is his attendance at the senior prom. The gym is not air conditioned, but it was beautifully decorated. The decorations were lost on BB. He quickly stripped himself of the tuxedo jacket. He “disco” danced and watched the girls. He consumed twenty-three cups of punch drink. He threw up and then fell asleep on the toilet in the restroom. It was a wonderful prom for a graduating senior.

I would like to bask in the glory of my collective teachings I’ve imparted upon BB. I just can’t recall any. However, I can bask in the teachings of BB, like how to smile at 6:20 A.M., or how to bump a lunch line without upsetting the “normal” students, and the way of making people on a job site appreciate how much different their lives could be, or hugging just for the sake of hugging, and how much I miss playing with toy soldiers.

BB is graduating on this fine Sunday from high school. I’m not sure the high school will ever be the same? I know I won’t be the same. He and his family sets out to see America on Monday. Be prepared America, BB is on his way.


Rimscape is not an online fantasy game. It is a reality.

One of the saving graces of being an emotionally disturbed genius is creating your own reality and then living in it. I first encountered Lucas while he was sitting cross-legged on the gym floor silently refusing to participate. His principal had approached me to "help" Lucas by tricking him into dressing out for Wellness. The class use to be called Physical Education. No one in a government school should physically tax students. So the name was changed to Wellness. I suppose this new name is used to encompass the total person and to aid them into becoming a well person. Never mind that Lucas could not walk from one end of the campus to another without resting. The long tenured Wellness teacher has no tolerance for non-conforming students. Looking at my class list throughout the year testifies to the idea that non-conforming students quickly come to my class for the semester from Wellness class. Lucas is about as far from conforming as a student can become.

My first encounter with Lucas was very quiet. He may have had a lot to say to me, but he didn't. I left him sitting on the "Wellness" floor after telling him he could drop by my portable haven when he wanted. The principals expects me to make a difference in these student's lives and intercept them before they make it to their office again. I did not see Lucas again for one month.

Checking my teacher's mailbox on a Tuesday morning has become a behaviorist treat. On Mondays I find the normal bureaucratic pabulum. This includes edicts from the school board, and the school department chair, and from the liaisons in the Special Education department at the central office. Is there a commonality between the Central Party from the Cold War days and the central office we all answer to now? In my mailbox on Tuesday mornings are the referral sheets from the principals to "help" the students that had occupied their offices on Monday afternoon.

Tucked in with the other notes was a brief note instructing me to check in with the Honors Geometry teacher, Ms. Bottomline. Lucas is a student in her fourth period class telling me why I should check with her. The vision of him sitting on the gym floor not communicating clashed with my previous impressions of Honors Geometry. I could not and didn't care to argue with Ms. Bottomline's teaching style. She has been teaching the same class for twenty-six years. She teaches to the test, producing very good standardized scores and students. If anything is positive about Lucas it's his non-standardized persona.

After checking when her planning period was scheduled I entered her doorless room at the beginning of third period. All of the classrooms in the main building of the high school are doorless. The school had been built during the seventies trend of open classrooms. A time when the belief was that teaching crossed from one teacher to another and one student to another. Teaching by osmosis was a trend whose time long came and went. Now the school board was funding one door at a time enclosing each classroom. This year alone, one door was funded. It was not in Honors Geometry.

"How are you young lady," I asked Ms. Bottomline? My approach to each teacher is different. None of them view me as a "real teacher". Ms. Bottomline sometimes responded well to my good old country boy personality.

"What can I do with Lucas?"

I looked at her feigning my innocence, "What's he doing?"

"Nothing except drawing weird characters for some sort of computer game." Her desire to have him out of her class was barely masked by her anger for a student not conforming.

I had been quietly following any progress Lucas was or was not making in his classes for the past month and I knew the answer to this question. "How are his grades in Geometry?"

"He won't write notes, won't work in group. He won't even help on class projects!"

Okay, it's tooth pulling time. "But, what kind of grade is he making?"

"He's failing the class. He has no grades for anything except tests."

"How bad are his tests grades?"

The loudness and indignity mostly disappeared from her voice. "He gets one-hundred on all of his tests."

I could have replied in many different ways. I chose the politically correct response. "So you've found a way to penetrate his diagnosis of Emotionally Disturbed and teach to him?"

"But he's not doing any of the work I assign."

"So he doesn't participate and still makes hundreds on all tests?"

"Right, but that's not fair to the other students." I wanted to say it appeared that she thought it wasn't fair to her as a teacher. This student was absorbing everything that came from her and was spouting it back on the tests achieving perfect scores. This was not the time to expound on my belief that fair meant each student gets what they need to be successful. They do not get what everyone else has.

"Is there a chance that you could grade him on his tests scores and disregard everything else he is not doing?"

"That wouldn't be fair."

"Would your life be easier," I asked?

"Well, yes."

"And we would be compliant with the accommodations listed on his Individualized Educational Plan?" I was trying to guide her into being compliant with the law.

"It says he doesn't have to do assignments, but just take tests?"

"No, it says we will accommodate his unique disability. We should attempt to guide him during his high school career trying for academic success."

"Well?" She wanted me to say I could take him out of her fourth period class and shelter him in my classroom. I was not prepared to do that just now. However, I knew in the near future Lucas would become a permanent fixture at one of my computer monitors during fourth period. What I did not foresee was Lucas attempting to drag me into his Rimscape computer world. He would begin to share daily with me the "exciting" world of a computer game "reality". The game Lucas stayed up most of the night exploring. Exploring his reality and trying to ignore his twin brother's form of computer reality inside the same Rimscape world.

The only reality is the one we live in. Perhaps it is Rimscape? Perhaps it is the government school system. Perhaps it is the one we nurture with our students while we attempt to demonstrate that many things are important in our lives. It might even be school at some point.

Reality? What a concept.