The Grapes of Wrath?
My first thirteen years of teaching were spent at the high school level. I taught primarily chemistry and physics; consequently, I encountered relatively few students with significant learning disabilities or other exceptionalities. I thought Ritalin was a rock band.
During the month of June, prior to becoming a grade 2 teacher, I visited Leatherbarrow Primary and spent time in a number of the grade 1 classes. This gave me the opportunity to meet some of the students who would be in my September class. It was then I first observed Lana. She was diagnosed ADHD and didn’t shy from confrontation.
That summer I read several books regarding early level education. I knew that many would be watching to see if I had the chops to handle the job, and I didn’t want to let down those who encouraged me to move to the primary school. I wanted to be ready.
I knew that Lana would be in my class and was told that she would probably be my most demanding student. As it turned out, I knew her parents. In August I called them and asked if I could stop by for a visit. They agreed that it would be a good idea to meet their daughter before school began.
I dropped by on a beautiful summer day. I opted not to dress like a teacher. I was wearing shorts and a golf shirt. After chatting with the parents and meeting the children, Lana and I walked out into the yard and we sat across from each other in the shade. She had a cup of grapes and offer me some – I declined. She seemed rather leery of me. I did most of the talking as she enjoyed her grapes, popping them into her mouth one at a time.
I was leaning ahead with my elbows on my knees as I explained to her how our classroom would be organized. She tossed another grape into her mouth but, this time, she didn’t chew. She just stared at me, expressionless. The grape reappeared between her lips just before she spit it at me. I didn’t have time to react. It hit me in the throat and fell down inside my shirt. I couldn’t believe what just happened. After I fished the grape out I looked at her. Her expression hadn’t changed – she just stared at me as she popped another graph in her mouth. It looked to me like she was reloading.
I suddenly has a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. What was I getting into? I hoped that this was not a sign of things to come.
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