A middle school special needs teacher is not what she seems.
|Some people can’t get past the chair. They see it, and judge. Just another retard in a wheelchair. “Non-verbal” is how the teachers describe me. Meanwhile, their faces say to each other, “he’s a moron, you know.” They call us the “special class”. Yes, we ride in the short bus. Go ahead and make your joke.
Most of us are retarded. There’ s no way around that. But they think we are just burdens. We are not useless. I’m in the class because I'm paraplegic and because, they say, I am “severely autistic”. I can’t speak well, but I listen. And I’m a good thinker. I know some things, and I keep an eye out for trouble. This is good, because we have trouble at Burgin Middle School.
It’s Miss Buckley. Our teacher.
Miss Buckley says she loves us. When “normals” are around. We know better. Our only value in her eyes are as props to gain sympathy and attention. It works, too. When other teachers and administrators visit our class, they pour out praise for Miss Buckley. In response, she says something pretend-humble and then smiles like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.
Today, Miss Buckley received the "Teacher of the Year" award. Our school held a rally in her honor. The newspaper is writing an article about it. Several from our class, including me, were placed on stage during her speech, like so many decorative house plants.
Back in the classroom, after the rally, Billy Thompson pooped his pants. The smell was awful. Miss Buckley calmly walked to the classroom door, opened it, looked both ways down the hall, and silently shut the door. She walked over to Billy.
“Billy, Billy, Billy,” she said. “Again? Really? You are disgusting.”
She slapped him--hard--on the back of the head. Billy bit his tongue and soon I saw blood mixed with the drool dripping from his mouth. “Shame on you, Billy. You worthless little beasts make me sick.”
She went to the phone on her desk and called the nurse. When the nurse arrived, Miss Buckley told her Billy had been passing gas all morning and was constipated. She said he had bitten his tongue, “you know—pushing.” Cheshire cat smile. The nurse smiled back, and said she would be happy to take care of it. She rolled Billy out of the room.
After the nurse left, Miss Buckley turned and stared at me. I got the message--don’t try to find a way to tell. Do, and I will hurt you.
But I had to do something, and it had to be me. I was smart enough. Though I couldn't walk, I had almost full use of my left arm. I had to get Miss Buckley. Not for me--for Billy. For the others she had hurt.
Most of all, for Sammy.
One day last year, Sammy “fell and hit his head”. He died. I missed school that day for a doctor’s appointment, but I know she did it. There had been a “full investigation”, but Miss Buckley was found blameless. The other teachers comforted her and sent her flowers--Miss Buckley! The killer!
Beneath her fake tears, I think Miss Buckley was laughing at them.
By the way, you should know that a “full investigation” when a retarded child dies is like when cops investigate bad cops--the paperwork is all there, but no one really looks. They only pretend.
Sammy was dead. One less burden for Miss Buckley, I guess.
But it was Billy that gave me the idea. Not the biting his tongue. The pooping. Miss Buckley hated the poop, the pee, the vomit, the drool. Things you get every day in a special class. When the nurse wasn’t available, Miss Buckley had to clean it herself. She did not do a good job. After, she would leave class to wash in the faculty bathroom. She was always gone a long time.
That would be my opportunity.
I didn’t have to wait long. The next week, Lisa’s stomach hurt. She threw up on her shirt, on her desk, in her lap, on the floor. The nurse was off campus for training, so Miss Buckley had to clean up. “Damn you, Lisa,” she said. “You are disgusting. No wonder nobody loves you. Not even your parents—they told me so.”
Miss Buckley grabbed two rolls of paper towels, wipes with bleach, and spray for the smell. She put on her gloves and slid the garbage can over to Lisa’s area. When she was “done”, she peeled off her gloves, dropped them in the basket and pushed it, with her shoe, into the hallway for the custodian to empty. She left the paper towels, wipes, spray, and gloves on her desk. As she left to wash up, she slammed the classroom door.
She never bothered to wipe the puke off Lisa’s face.
I immediately started wheeling toward Miss Buckley's desk. I pulled a single disposable glove from the box, grabbed it with my teeth, and slid my left hand inside. It wasn’t on perfectly, but it would have to do. I wheeled to the door and opened it. I was lucky--the custodian had not come by yet. I leaned forward, toward the trash can, and nearly fell from my chair, which would have been a disaster. Somehow, I managed to catch myself with my left elbow on the arm rest and push my body back up.
I spun my chair so my left arm was directly above the garbage. I lowered my gloved hand into the trash. I quickly found the warm, wet area that must have been the vomit. I twirled my index finger around in the throw up until I figured I had at least ten million germs on my glove.
I turned and made for Miss Buckley’s desk, index finger held out to the side. The class was watching, with little understanding. Maybe a few of the “high functioning” had an idea, because some smiled. I pulled my wheelchair up so I could easily reach her expensive water bottle. I carefully rubbed my gloved, puke-covered finger all over the mouthpiece. I even rubbed it on the sides where she would hold the bottle. There were no chunks, so you couldn’t really tell I had done anything.
I picked up the deodorizer and sprayed around the area. Then, I took a paper towel, folded it in two, and placed it in my mouth like a mouth guard. I used it to grab the edge of the glove and pull my hand out, careful not to let any part of the glove touch my mouth or skin. I wheeled back to the garbage can and dropped the paper towel and glove inside, then rolled back into class. I quietly closed the door, and moved back to my space.
A few minutes later, Miss Buckley was back in class. She sat down at her desk and stared at Lisa for a long time. Then she laughed, picked up her water bottle, and took a long drink. “I got the stink out of my classroom,” she said to us, “but they’ll never get the stink out of you.”
The next day, Miss Buckley wasn’t at school. Or the day after that. On the third day, she was back. telling everyone about the horrible "flu that nearly killed her". She had "so worried about her children” while she was out, she said to the other teachers.
I don’t care what Miss Buckley says anymore. I am happy.
All day, I've been sneaking pieces of chocolate to Billy Thompson. I can’t wait for the next time he craps his pants. I’m sure I can reach Miss Buckley’s lunch kit and add a little “flavor” to her salad. I don’t know how many sick days she has, but I will do my best to make sure she uses every single one.
Who knows? Maybe she will decide being around us just isn’t for her anymore. After all, she said it herself—we make her sick.