On Impossible Gifts

When I was still in teacher training, I was an “observer” and “student teacher” in a 2nd grade classroom in South Austin. I got to work with the same mentor teacher both semesters and saw two different groups of kids. The first group had a student who was a high-functioning autistic boy (Kid1, for our purpose). Cute kid, really, and extremely bright, but sometimes he was hard to understand, so many kids kept emotional if not physical distance.

There was one lad in the class (Kid2) who took the time and effort to be a real pal for Kid1. They played together at recess, sat together at lunch, and apparently spent a lot of time together out of school, too. When Kid1 was having a rough day, Kid2 seemed to instinctively know if Kid1 needed space or a hug. Then, the potential tragedy rose up. Kid2 announced that he had to move away. His dad had gotten a job out of state, and they were leaving by the end of the week. Kid2 offered to bring Kid1 a parting gift, whatever Kid1 wanted.

The Pokemon craze was just getting going in a big way, so Kid1 asked for his very own Pokemon, a real one, not a toy. Kid2 thought about it for a minute, then agreed. Once the kids were gone for the day, I mentioned to my mentor that this whole scenario couldn’t end well. There were no “real” Pokemon, of course, and Kid1 didn’t handle disappointment well. My mentor smiled and told me not to worry. Kid2 would never do anything to harm his friend. He’d have something worked out.

The next day, the kids were filing into class, and Kid1 got there first, as usual. He came early so he could take extra time to get unpacked and ready for the day. Kid2 arrived at the usual time, just after the first bell, and went to his desk.

Kid1 raced over. “Didja get it!”

“It was a hard one to catch.” Kid2 made a grand show of digging around in his backpack then came up with a double-handful of air. “It’s an Invisitor. Only one of its kind. It has no weight and it’s totally invisible.” He deposited the double-handful of air in Kid1’s open hands. “One problem. It doesn’t like Pokeballs, but it’ll stay with you wherever you go.”

Kid1 darted over to my mentor. “Look!  I got a Pokemon!”

“That’s great! Now you can–”

Before my mentor finished, Kid1 ran over to me. “Miss Koepp!  LOOK!!! I need a container to keep him in because he doesn’t like Pokeballs.”

There was a stash of “critter containers” in the back for kids who found interesting beetles or walking sticks at recess. I walked back there with him and dug out a fist-sized jar. Kid2 mimed putting the double-handful of air in the jar and announced the jar was too little. I put that one back and got one of the sandwich-sized storage boxes. That one was too short. Back in the cabinet the third time, I came up with the Goldilocks solution of a storage box about 6″ on a side. That one was just right.

By the time Kid1 got back to his desk, Kid2 had dropped off a wrapped present: a Pokemon coloring book, and inside the front cover, he’d written “Draw your own Invisitor.”

For the rest of the month, Kid1 carried his Invisitor-in-a-box everywhere he went.

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One thought on “On Impossible Gifts

  1. […] You might think that I had no bright points in the nearly a decade and a half I stayed in the profession, but that wouldn’t be quite right, either. Even in the worst years, when half of my class was seriously behaviorally challenged or when the paperwork load meant I was getting fewer than 4 hours of sleep each night just to keep up, there were some great kids. I had kids who stood up to bullies, and kids who protected their classmates from the violent kids in the class, and kids who just knew how to make someone’s day. […]

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