It's been two days worth of MCAs. All seniors were excused from classes, freshmen were sent on field trips, and tenth and eleventh graders took math, reading, and writing tests. I proctored the reading tests for tenth graders. Not much to it, you read the script and watch the kids take the tests. I heard that there were problems in some of the testing rooms, but my group was as quiet as could be. I had not one problem.
I had a student in my group who I have never had in class, but who I eventually heard a lot about. I guess W. rarely makes it through a day without getting kicked out of one or more classes. He won't stay still, he cusses out teachers, he ignores requests and he picks fights with other students. The thing is, I didn't recognize W's name when he came into my testing room, so I had no who he was or how he has behaved in the past.
W. came in a little late, as did several other students. He is black, about fifteen or sixteen years-old, and dresses in hip, clothes - his T-shirt and jeans are less baggy than lots of the boys and he wears a flashy belt buckle and wallet chain; it's called the rock star look. He wears his hair in an unusual style too, kind of cross between a fade and a pompadour. He was pretty calm when he arrived and only nodded to another boy in the class and flashed him a guarded, half smile.
As with the other late-comers, I took W. aside, handed him his materials, and went through the script on the packet I was given. He listened intently, then sat down and began his test. He read his passage carefully, mouthing the words and sometimes mumbling them out loud, but no one seemed to mind. He answered the questions carefully and took more time than anyone else in the classroom. When he was through, I asked him if he had checked through his answers and he told me he had. Twice.
In the meantime a colleague popped his head in the door and saw that my students were all working quietly. He nodded his head toward W. and asked, "What's up with him?" When I shrugged my shoulders, he queitly filled me in on W. and his past behavior. "I don't know," I told him, "He's been nothing but respectful today." My colleague just raised his eyebrows and walked away. I had a felling he was thinking that the shoe would eventually drop.
It didn't though. By the time that W. had taken his break and started up on the second section of the test, many of his peers were finished. I crouched down and told him, softly, not to worry that he was taking longer, just to do a good job. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "no problem."
W. was the only kid left in my room by the end, he took all morning and a little more. When it was time to go to lunch, I told him that if he wanted to keep going and finish up, that was fine with me. He told me he was just about done, and a few minutes later, he called me over to seal up his test booklet.
"Good job," I told him, and I had to add, "I thought you were supposed to be some kind of bad-ass, that you never get a long with teachers."
He just shrugged his shoulders and gave me that half smile, "Sometimes, they just be buggin' me, you know? "
"You cool though," he added, and stuck out his hand. I shook it and he took off into the hallway, running toward the lunch room and yelling out to a friend .
I saw him later that day, as he walked toward the front door after lunch. His eyes went right through me; they did not register my existence.
That's okay, though. He'd already paid me quite a compliment that day. I'm certain we will speak again.