Saturday, January 23, 2016

Inclusion

She looked up with desperate eyes,
wanting me to stop a behavior
neither of us understood.

Her eyes belonged on the teacher,
His stayed down,
reading books,
but also paying
close attention
to everything
else.

"Make him stop, please!"
That nervous glance,
first at me,
then his hands
down in his lap
under his desk.

No, he wasn't doing that.
He was flapping,
and it made her nervous.

He could learn this way,
but she couldn't, not as well.
I went to the coach for answers.

If we try to make him stop,
he'll start doing something else,
Coach said.
Show him
a different place
to put his hands so it won't be
a distraction.

It made sense.

The girl felt better
when she could see his hands,
because then she knew he wasn't doing
that.

You can still move your hands,
I told him, but not underneath your desk.
You're in sixth grade now, and we need another plan, I said.
He understood and started trying, right then, to change.

It's okay to do it in the open, I said,
as long as you keep your hands here,
by your sides.

They tried to return to the safe place,
under his desk,
again and again,
but he caught them along the way
and sent them on a different path.

There were lots of reminders at first,
but not out loud.
"You're doing it, again," I said,
every time I passed by his desk too closely
during social studies.

"You're doing it, again," I said,
with my eyes..across the classroom.

That was enough.
It was that easy.
Soon, his hands were openly flapping
by his sides
in social studies class
instead of hiding under his desk
the way they had
for years
and
Her eyes no longer slipped over
to mine
because she was
listening to the teacher.