It’s not always what it seems, specifically when 7th period rolls around and kids are running in and out. Not necessarily not normal, but definitely not standard. What gives then?
Despite their best efforts, and mine, we’ve fine-tuned the program into something that resembles school. Despite their best efforts, they’re improving. Some drastically. Some not so much.
This one kid has brought about a veritable shit-storm of epic proportions by doing one small, simple thing extremely, dare I say it, miraculously well: He doesn’t talk to us.
He doesn’t talk to us.
Epic doesn’t begin to describe it. Sublime in his execution of a plan that is either perfectly contrived or completely improvised, he hasn’t said a damn word to any adult. Really. At the end of the fifth week of school, he has uttered no more than 10 words to an adult. Total.
Coming in with a questionable eligibility for services, the debate is still in the air. Autism? Specific Learning Disability? Anger? Most adults won’t admit to failure, but we’re stumped. Nearly beat. Nearly beaten down. That was us.
That was until Ramo got to him.
Ramo might read this blog post one day. Maybe. But I’ll say it now: what he did today was nothing short of mother fucking legendary; the kind of shit that cannot be quantified by grades, percentages, or points. I was so proud. I still am. We were so proud. We still are Most importantly, he was proud. I hope that he continues to feel that joy.
The Really, Really Quiet Kid (RRQK) had not said a meaningful word for five weeks. Sure, he cussed out his paraprofessional a few times via an iPad writing app (‘Shut the fuck up, you cunty fuck.’ Or maybe he said ‘shut up fucker.’ Not sure). Other than the occasional written outburst, he hasn’t said much.
Ramo don’t care. Ramo don’t give a fuck.
Two weeks ago, Ramo came up to me and said the following. Keep in mind, his English skills are still developing. Grammar aside, there was a certain passion in his voice, even though he was laughing and joking.
“Who’s that kid over there? Why doesn’t he talk?”
“Oh. That’s J. He’s just a bit shy.”
“Oh ya?! Okay. I wanna talk with him. I wanna make friends with him.”
“Well, you know what Ramo? You should.”
“Okay. Lemme think. I think I will. You know me. I wanna be friends with everyone.”
A week passed by without Ramo making an attempt, but every so often in sixth period Ramo would take a look over towards J, and J would look back and crack a slight smile. It was fascinating and exciting. Fascinating because Ramo has the type of personality that makes you want to be happy. You can’t explain it, but it happens. Exciting, because the breakthrough that I had talked about, that I knew would come, despite other peoples’ doubts, was on the proverbial cliff, ready to tumble over like a big rig. Little did we know that our student who struggled with mixed-numbers and citing evidence through direct quotes, was about to do something that a team of college-educated, degree carrying adults were unable to do: crack the RRQK.
Fast forward to Thursday, September 12, 2013. I stayed up way too late the night before struggling with my greens. It’s really hard to get the sauté and steam times right. Spinach wilts extremely fast. Collard greens take a while longer. Kale, on the other, (specifically Tuscan Kale) is a tough wilt.
The next morning was a blur all the way through sixth period. Sixth period was the magic period.
The boy was ready to go
Ramo came through full of curiosity. And can you blame him? There is a kid in class who doesn’t talk. He doesn’t even talk to his support provider, Steve, who is unquestionably the funniest person on the planet. Comedic Gods are crafted in his image. Don't believe it? Ask him. He's also supporter of Insanity and will fillet you mercilessly if your jokes are not up to par. We love him.
Ramo came through full of curiosity. You can’t blame him. His strength lies in his personality. He’s unstoppable in his likability. His personality boils over every day. A complete handful, to be sure, but he doesn’t let academic struggles get in the way of enjoying his life. The only kid in South Central absolutely obsessed with the great schism between Dave Mustaine and Metallica. He’s a legend, as well.
Ramo finished some of his work early, and with 25 minutes left in the period, asked me if he could talk to J.
He leaned over right into J’s face, no closer than 6 inches apart, and started talking.
“This kid’s going to freak out,” I thought. “A student, possibly on the spectrum, trying to handle 110% of Ramo? No way.”
I turned around to work with another student, and only focused back into the interaction when I heard voices.
Two voices. And the louder one was not Ramo. It was the RRQK. He was talking. He was smiling. He was doing all of the things that we wanted him to do. And Ramo was the reason.
“You did it!”
The students filed out of the room, but Ramo turned around in shock.
“What? What happened?”
(What happened? Otherwise known as the Standard Ramo):
“Please stop talking and pay attention to the lecture.”
“What? What happened?”
It was his standard remark.)
“You did it Ramo!”
“What?? What happened?!?! What’d I did?”
“You got him to talk! You did it! He had a conversation!!”
“It was because of me?”
“It was because of you dude! You did it! You did. That was amazing!”
“Ya. I just wanted to make friends, you know? I want to be friends with everyone. I can tell he want to talk, you know? He wanted to be talking with us. I could tell.”
And we all smiled. Kelsey smiled. Dante smiled. I smiled. Ramo smiled. And they weren’t ‘ha ha’ smiles. It was success. It was success of the human spirit. It was the power of love and friendship and sunshine and all the good things in the world. This little kid made it happen for us. He made our day for us, or at least, for me. His smile was two times bigger than normal as he left the room, because he realized that he did something meaningful. That he belonged. That he succeeded. And he brought out the best in someone else.
And it was good.
And I’ll never forget it.