Sunday, September 16, 2018


Emily Winfield Martin
On the 5th day of school, he told us he didn’t have a math class. I thought he was joking when I saw the sly but sheepish gleam in his eye and a full grin on his usually-so-serious face.

“Lucky!” yelled the other kids.

“You must be really smart!” someone theorized.

“Wait, REALLY?” I asked, scrambling to enter the right password on my laptop to access a copy of his schedule. Sure enough, no math class.

“I just thought…that maybe not everybody gets to have math in middle school,” he reasoned earnestly.

I hastily composed an email to the registrar, who hand-delivered his corrected schedule within minutes.

On the 7th day of school, he looked up from his math homework to watch me trouble-shooting a classmate’s malfunctioning school-district-issued iPad.

“I wish I still had my iPad. I had one just like that one at my old school,” he said.

“Wait, REALLY?” I asked, scrambling to enter the right password on my laptop to access his elementary school teacher’s contact information. Sure enough, his own school-district-issued iPad had been lost in the shuffle. She’d found it just that morning and would arrange for a younger sibling to bring it home to him that afternoon.

The next day at school, he showed me a game on his iPad. I keep the classroom open during lunch for my students who prefer a quieter alternative to the cafeteria. We were peacefully munching and chatting sporadically, mostly focused on our books and phones (and teacher email).

“Can I show you my game?” he asked, and there it was, something mathematical, all multiples of 4 sliding hither and thither, speedy but pleasantly rote. He told me proudly that his mom had some incredibly high score at this game. Maybe somebody somewhere had a higher score, but she was the only person he knew with a score that high.  

“I would ask her what her strategy was,” he pondered matter-of-factly, “but I can’t. Because she had cancer. And she died.”



His eyes were on his game. “Uh-huh.” The fours and eights and sixteens and thirty-twos slid and multiplied on his screen. Without looking up or speaking, his classmates tuned in almost instinctively, in stoic solidarity. Kids are braver than adults like that. They just know.

I didn't have to scramble for the right words. I know them well enough. So I said all the kind and correct things one says and asked the questions one asks, and he answered succinctly, but sincere. “Can you make sure that nobody comes and takes me out of class to talk about it?” was his one request. “They kept doing that at my old school. I didn’t even know who the people were.”

“Oh, I hate when they do that,” a classmate sympathized, and all the others chorused their agreement.

I reassured him that no one would do that to him here. I started to explain what resources are available at our school if he ever did want to talk to someone.

“Can I go back to showing you my game?” he said.

So we did.

1 comment:

Jess64 said...

I'm glad you were there to really listen to him.

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