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My students this year are fantastic.  There are those among them that I worry about but by and large they are an easy-to-teach bunch of kids.  There are some quirky ones that stand out . . . in a good way.

One of them is a huge fan of KISS.  Yup, the rock band with the face makeup and all.  He loves KISS.  Every free write he does is about KISS.  I have poems about KISS now and let me tell you, you haven’t really lived until you’ve read a haiku about KISS.

Yesterday, he came up to me at the end of the day, all 9 year old seriousness.  He had something shoved under his shirt and asked me to guess what he got for his birthday.  Well, I couldn’t guess and so he pulled them out . . . KISS deodorant and cologne.

Ahhhhhh, I thought.  That was that pleasant odor that would waft through the classroom periodically today.  He was over the moon about it.  Cute kid.  Wonder what he’ll be for Halloween!  I guess I can only hope that he’s not Gene Simmons and doesn’t stick his tongue out at me while he’s “in character.”

I had a breakthrough with one of the two most difficult kids in my class yesterday.  He is — we believe — undiagnosed with Asperger’s.  He is diagnosed wtih ADHD and was taken off of his medications this summer — he started school without them and that got us off to an exceptionally rough start.  It was really difficult.  Now, his medication for ADHD is settling into his system again and things are getting much, much better.

One of the most difficult areas  for him academically is writing — he doesn’t see himself as a writer and resists (often quite fiercely) any attempt to get him to write.  At an SST, his parents mentioned that he has a journal at home that he loves to write and draw in.  So, I got his classroom journal out and told him that it was available whenever he wanted to draw/write in it.

And out poured monsters . . . nearly a dozen cool, creepy, Halloween-inspired monsters.  They are wonderful — he colors them carefully and richly with colored pencils.  Wow!

So, I had him come sit with me one day when the class was writing and I wrote down his words about the monsters.  I asked him questions . . . what does it to when it sees people?  What does it smell like?  What does it sound like?  Where does it live?  He answered them with creative, thoughtful answers.  (This is also amazing  because he is so literal and factual about things so getting highly imaginative answers was really exciting).  I wrote the words on a separate piece of paper as he is very obsessive about his work being his and only his — if I write on a page of his work, he freaks out.

The next day, I wrote up a little CLOZE paragraph for him . . .

My monster’s name is _____.  My monster likes to _____ people.  My monster smells like ______.   My monster is ________.

and I asked him to take the words I’d written down for him and write about his monsters on their pages in his book.  I honestly thought I’d get a lot of resistance but he ran with it.  He wrote and wrote and wrote.

I was so thrilled and I have an idea of how he can participate in Social Studies now which has previously been a gargantuan waste of time for him because the skills needed to do the work were beyond him.

And, before you ask, yes, we are working on getting him diagnosed correctly so that he can get the help that he needs to be successful in school but these things take time.    So, we celebrate the minor victories that help him see himself as a successful student who is moving ahead and learning necessary skills to be successful in school.

And on days like that, I get to glow with the knowledge that for that kid at that moment, I did something right.  Yahoo!

Reading an online acquaintance’s blog {click} this morning, I was filled with so many rampaging, conflicting feelings that I couldn’t leave a comment.  I had to come and blog about it myself.

She homeschools her 10 year old.  I, personally, have no problem with the homeschooling situation if it is done well and, from what I can judge, this family is doing a good job with it.  Yay for them.  Seriously, I couldn’t do it.  I don’t teach my own children very well — I get too impatient with them which is a terrible way to teach.  Odd though it may seem, it is much easier for me to take on 30 kids than 2.  My little quirk.

I also completely understand the desire to homeschool children in order to protect them from what goes on in many schools.  I have worked in schools that I would not send my children to — if it were my only choice, I’d homeschool — impatient or not.  My impatience is nothing compared to first graders getting in slapfights and calling each other f*ing b*tches.  And, when I think about sending my sweet babies off to middle school, I get the heebeejeebies big time.

I’m lucky, however, in where my children go to school.  They attend the school where I teach.  It’s a small town school with an amazingly caring staff of true professionals.  From the principal on down, we have a staff that gives its all to the kids.  We actively fight bullying and simply do not tolerate it.  We have a huge emphasis on lifeskills and appropriate behavior.  We are doing it right.  I’m proud to work there and happy to have my children there.  Yay for us.

So, all of that is background to a story I want to tell.  I have a student who is quirky to the extreme.  He’s exceptionally bright — smart to the extreme.  He effortlessly scores well on tests, writes beautifully, is an artist, a musician, and an avid reader. He’s also gifted in mathematics and science.  In another era, he’d be a Renaissance Man and admired by all.   He is out of step in modern life however.  He has long red hair that he wears down and hanging in his face.  He’s not athletic so he doesn’t have a strong, physical body.  He is sensitive, smart, creative and really nice.  He doesn’t have any close friends but does tend to be drawn to the other odd eggs at our school.  When I say he’s smart, I mean it — there is very little required to teach him.  He learns sort of haphazardly.  He’s usually drawing in class and lost in another world but then scores the top score on a test.  He is truly amazing.

That said, you might imagine a life of misery for him.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I won’t say that his life is easy and one giant walk in the park.  I’m sure he has his fair share of 5th grade angst.  I’m sure he wishes things were better.  However, he has friends.  He is not ostracized in any way at school. Most kids don’t understand him  but they don’t use that as an excuse to treat him badly.  We have this learning/social activity at our school for 5th graders.  They can create a business and sell their wares to the other students using classroom money that they earn throughout the week for good behavior.  He created an art business where he sells his art.  I’ve seen his art so I knew he is talented.  I was worried how much art he would sell and if his extreme enthusiasm would end in disappointment.   I have never seen such a dedicated businessman, though.  He created the business, tracked his expenses and sales, prepared black and white and color versions of his artwork for sale.  He really thought it through.   And guess what?  His booth was busy.  Kids bought his pictures and told him how wonderful they were.  He had a huge grin on his face the entire time.  And, at the end of the class when we talked about the experience and I asked the kids what they learned.  The first person to share said, “I learned that J is an amazing artist.”  Nods and sounds of agreement came from the whole room and J’s face lit up with pride.

Schools CAN provide safe havens for quirky kids.  And, I’m proud to be a part of one that does so.

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