Why can’t we be friends?

Yeah, I’m still sick, but now the grossness has migrated from my throat to my nose. I’m surviving on water, gatorade, peppermint herbal tea, Dayquil, Nightquil, and Airborne. And tissues . . . lots and lots of tissues.

Anyway, today I witnessed something rather, well, amazing, in my opinion. In my one class there is a boy with Asberger’s. He’s very smart, rather funny and quick with a joke, gets along pretty well with teachers, but socially around his peers, he just doesn’t cut it. He’ll get upset easily in class, yell out inappropriate things such as “SHUT UP!” or “KNOCK IT OFF, YOU RETARDS!” (which, by the way, the use of the word “retard” is a major no-no in my book, but I’m not quite sure how to get him to stop saying it . . . or if I even can), or go up to girls in the class and try to touch them. Many of the other students find him strange or, at the very least, an avoidance, and I must admit, I feel his pain. He was aware of his condition which probably makes it even more painful. He has a TSS worker who is with him throughout the day, and, while she is a great help, especially to the teachers, and works extremely well with him, I am sure her added presence just makes him feel even that much more noticeable in terms of his differences.

Anyway, there is another boy in the same class, and apparently there is some bad blood between these two. The TSS worker said they got in a fight last year, and even in my class there has already been some confrontations. I even caught the second boy making the (for lack of better words) “retard” sign at the student with Asberger’s (which resulted in an immediate visit to the vice principal because actions like that, in my opinion, are bullying and will not be tolerated in my classroom). To put it bluntly, things have been a little tense between these two boys, and I try to keep them separated as much as possible for the good of the order.

Flash forward to today. We are working on a creative project where students are allowed to work in partners or groups of three. As the students are pairing and grouping off, I keep an eye on my student with Asbergers, because I know one of his “touchy” points is group work. As he kind of fumbles around and figures out what to do, I hear a familiar voice call to him, “Hey, you wanna work with us?” I look and it’s boy number two and another classmate, who also has a tendency to be a bit . . . sneaky, if you know what I mean. In my head, I’m thinking, “Great, this is not going to go well,” but I let the boys work together and stand close by in case anything should go down.

Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . those boys worked together SO well that class and then later on during Core Plus time (I see my students twice a day; the second time is called Core Plus). I was actually completely dumbfounded. I first I couldn’t tell if the other two boys were being sincere or not but I truly think they were. All three of them were joking and working together, and while the boy with Asberger’s was actually working on his own project after all, he sat near the other two and was cracking jokes with them. I made sure to tell the first two students how proud I was of them for inviting him into their group with them, and I am truly hoping that this is the start of a new chapter for them. While I know seventh grade hormones and everything can be fickle, I am still remaining optimistic. It was truly a great part of the day.

It’s the things like this that remind me why I decided to drag my butt out of bed before the sun rises, deal with whiny twelve year-olds, read and plan until my eyes and fingers hurt . . . because I know that sometimes, it is truly worth it.

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