December 2016

“Hey, look at my eyes!” The girl pressed her fingers to the corners of her eyelids and slanted them upwards, then downwards, then upwards again. “Haha!” She started chanting in a sing-song manner, “Ching-chong, ching-chong!” We were at summer camp and eating ice cream at a picnic table. I was barely 12 and joined her happily, as did our friends. When she saw that I joined, she dropped her hands and laughed even louder, slamming the table and saying, “You look so funny!” I didn’t get it. Wasn’t that the point? I thought we all looked funny. But I could tell from her inflection that I was the one who looked particularly funny.

The door swung open, and the school counselor pushed a seven-year-old child into the room. As the child's eyes met my own, his face turned pale white. I groaned inwardly but maintained a stoic expression. "This one of yours?" the counselor said. I nodded, and the counselor ushered Dustin to an empty table. He settled down in the back of the room, and I returned to the group of staff members at my own table. These meetings always ruined my day. Dustin had entered the school a few weeks ago. Quite frankly, I was less than thrilled by his arrival. Thanks to him, my classroom expanded — yet again —to an impossible 28 children, an unacceptably large number for kindergarten. And he wasn't just the normal addition. He was the kind that liked to curse, punch, scream, run out of the room, hide in various locations, and refuse to listen to any sort of command or request whatsoever.