He’s one of those kids who is wired differently. Outside the box, the odd duck, however you want to put it. They are the ones we write about after all, not the ordinary ones. I had asked for him. We had developed a bit of a rapport when he was in the class next door, on his good days. I was happy to take him on, add him to my crew. After 18 years of teaching, I felt I had the tools to deal with him. And on that point, I was not proved wrong.
He has rough time, this kid. There are forces in him that he can’t always control. They result in the yelling and the hitting and the strange ways he leans on chairs to calm himself down. He is angry a lot. I don’t know if that’s because of those inner demons themselves, or his inability to control them, or the world’s reaction to him. But it’s there. And it keeps him from being the full person he wants to be.
He draws trees. Trees after trees after trees. Beautiful trees, and he knows their names and where they grow and the nature of their cones and seeds. Pretty remarkable for a six year old. His family spends time hiking and camping; they are a part of his culture. But the trees also speak to him. They are beautiful and regal and don’t challenge him. They are quiet and undemanding. They just are.
He’s as obnoxious as hell, this one. Lashing out at adults and children alike. He can tell if someone doesn’t like and respect him, and he treats them with disdain whether they are three feet tall or six feet tall. That’s gotten him in the most trouble. We call it disrespect. He’s just reacting with his emotions. There are days when I simply can’t take it, so I send him to a quiet corner or the principal’s office with his notebook. It doesn’t matter if he listens to the lesson or not, he’s smart enough to absorb it by osmosis.
I see his gifts. I see his light. The others don’t. They see his violence and his anger and his disruption. Their baby is in Kindergarten, and this kid is interrupting their child’s “perfect” Kindergarten experience. They want him out. They complain and cajole and bully until he is gone. I see no compassion in their actions.
Children come and go in a school, it is the way of education. But I am grieving more for the loss of this student than I have for any. I was particularly attached to him. I worked hard to bring him to a place that wasn’t so bad, where he had begun to see his self-control as useful, and find healthier tools to deal with life. The complainers have taken this away from me, have taken him away from me. Have interrupted his progress and mine, and forced him into a place where he has to start over.
I am angry. I won’t see him again, but I will see them. They have precious children under my care, innocent ones who deserve my attention as much as anyone else, and who I will hug really hard as we mourn the loss of their classmate. I’ll have to look the adults in the eye and pretend I don’t care what they did. And walk away from the comments and the questions. This is no solution in my book. Not for him, not for me. And not for the children who will never learn about understanding and compassion from a boy who is just a bit different.