With the school year wrapping up, I am reminded of an incident that took place when I was a third grade teacher about 10 years ago. I had a wonderful child in my class named Nicholas. Nicholas was a lovable 9 year old, extremely smart, identified gifted actually, but also, quite learning disabled. Fact was, he couldn’t read. He could put together very large puzzles, however, like nobody’s business. The unfortunate thing was that his mother was quite uneducated, and came from a very rural and poverty stricken part of Mexico. She never spoke to him during his first few years of life because she couldn’t imagine why one would talk to a baby since a baby couldn’t talk back. Naturally, she never read to him either. Nicholas was at a big disadvantage when it came to the written word. Nicholas attended special class for about an hour or so each day with our special needs teacher, Lisa, to address his learning disability.
One bright morning, as I walked across the playground on my way back to my classroom at the end of recess, Nicholas came running up to me, quite agitated.
N-“Mrs. M., Mrs. M.”
me-“What is it Nicholas?”
N-“Mrs. M., Andrew just told me to ‘suck his (and here he leaned in very close to me and whispered and spelled), d-u-c-k.'”
I paused, trying to compose myself and reply with the level of seriousness that the situation warranted, all the while wanting to burst out laughing.
me-“I am very sorry to hear that Nicholas. That was a very mean thing to say. I will talk with Andrew right away and I assure you this won’t happen again.”
Recess ended and we went into the classroom for a math lesson or some such thing.
At lunch, I went immediately to Lisa’s classroom and told her the story. Then I told her she really needed to work more with Nicholas on spelling.