It’s been over ten years since I taught full time in a classroom, but there are some memories of interesting kids that have stuck with me all this time. Something today reminded me of Brandon, a kindergartner who was truly unforgettable.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was to be my last year of teaching. It was a killer year, with WAY too many students, quite a few of whom had serious educational, behavioral, and/or emotional needs. I quite literally sat in the driveway and cried before going into the house many, many afternoons.
Brandon was one of very few saving graces in that year. He was taller than most of his classmates, with a vocabulary that blew me away from the moment we met. For the first few weeks of school he carried with him every day a copy of the 500+-page biography of John Adams that had recently been published. He couldn’t read it, but kept it at his desk nonetheless. When I told him I had a copy at home, it instantly cemented our relationship.
Brandon had a tough time relating to his classmates. Somehow none of the other five-year-olds in the room were interested in his long treatises about the Revolutionary War history. The American revolution, its battles, and its main characters were his sole topic of conversation. On the playground he always wanted to reenact some of his favorite battles, and tried in vain to assign roles of Redcoats and Colonials to the other kids.
Our classroom door had a mechanical fault that sometimes caused it to lock itself when we left for recess. On one of these occasions when we returned from outside and couldn’t get into our room, Brandon – line leader that day – declared, “Curses. It’s a Tory plot!” How can you not adore a kid with that kind of imagination?
Brandon had no interest in learning to form capital and lower case letters. His handwriting was completely illegible, though he certainly knew the letters and the sounds they made. One day I came up with a solution – I created a special letter practice book just for him, with a different Revolutionary War vocabulary word or hero for each letter. The X page was pretty difficult until The Husband reminded me of the “XYZ affair” (look it up- I had to!). I had shared my stories about this student with the whole family, and they enjoyed contributing ideas for his special book.
Though I rarely had enough time to deal with the needs of my other 49 students (25 morning, 25 afternoon), I initiated the process of having Brandon tested for gifted education. Kindergartners seldom receive placement, and he didn’t make the “correct” scores. In fact he scored pretty badly. I could have told them why. None of the testing revolved around his area of interest.
I’m pretty certain in my own mind that my young friend was probably diagnosed as being somewhere on the spectrum at some point in his educational career. Wherever his path led, I truly hope someone down the line recognized and made permanent accommodations for this fascinating and very special boy.
Thanks for the memories, Brandon. 🙂