Writing about teaching ----- January 26, 2013
Instead of "On Devil's Island"
I've said Shrimp could be a mean little guy. So often that's true of the shorter, wiry people. Shrimp was someone I would compare to a terrier.
He didn't stutter when his comments were short. Six words, more or less, came to be the stuttering limit. When I took my slow class to see exhibits on colonial living, Shrimp quickly spotted an exotic-looking chair right next to the bed. This turned out to be the commode. When it was explained to him how early colonists went to the bathroom, Shrimp's reply was, "That's too close to the pillar (pillow)." He made sense, and no stutter. When a representative came to show the class a space suit, the sort of thing our astronauts wore, Shrimp's question was, "How do they poop and pee?" The principal shut him up, but I thought his question was best of all (well, how do they poop and pee?), and once again, no stutter.
Shrimp was one of our bus students. His bus was driven by a Mennonite lady who wore a prim, little white cap perched on the back of her head. On the day the students had been given oranges at lunchtime, her cap made a perfect target for orange peelings. Someone, reportedly Shrimp, gave in to the temptation to throw a whole orange. It hit her in the head and almost caused her to drive into the ditch. She, of course, turned the bus around and came right back to the school.
When the principal got on the bus, students one and all gave false names for themselves. Shrimp identified himself as "Twinkle Toes." So the other teachers and I went to the front of the school, and we entered the bus to identify and get our students in hand. Shrimp was identified and partly dragged, partly lifted off that bus by me. This didn't make me happy. I will tell you right now I am not a perfect person. In the hall outside my classroom, Shrimp and I did a dance which involved Shrimp getting bumped into lockers. He was mightily threatened. For a few weeks after that he actually behaved himself before he eventually fell back into his grumpy personality. He began to grumble about how I treated him, and he actually said his mamma was going to come into school and beat me up.
When conference night came around, I did meet Shrimp's mamma, and she did not beat me up. In fact, she was a delightful person. Next day, I reminded Shrimp of his threat to my well being, and of the fact that his mom hadn't beat anybody up, including me. He sat for a moment, and then he commented, "Well, but I got a dog."
He stole from others, and when Shrimp stole pens, he sometimes stuck them down the front of his pants, figuring I never would investigate with my hands in that area. One time, when I wanted him to pass out some papers, I gave him what I thought was a gentle push with my hand to get a'movin' and hand those things out. Another student said to Shrimp as the class -- and the day--- ended, "You tell her about that pen." That is what I thought that student said, at any rate. At home, the school nurse called me. Turned out Shrimp had a safety pin in his mouth and when I gave him a push, he swallowed it. For a time after I learned that, I spent some anguished hours hoping that safety pin was shut as it worked its way through his system. "Pen" in that student sentence had been "Pin." So whenever six words were involved, either uttered by Shrimp or said about him, I could expect a fuss.
No words at all were involved, however, on the day Shrimp mooned the whole front of the school. There was one person there he resented, and that was his target. It didn't bother him who else was also there. If I had six words to offer Shrimp, I guess they would have been, "Get your ass outta the window."
Click on the next chapter. Well, you know that by now.