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A DIXIE DIARY: The Spring Semester Of My Rookie Year
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Teachers Have To Write Essays, Too. Here's 932 Southern-Fried & True Words Of My Own
Essay A Go-Go: What's Up With Them Adults?
Rebel Yell: Give Todd A Holler

August 27

The whirligigs were preposterous.  John marveled at how much junk and energy had gone into making them.

—Georgia Curiosities, by William Schemmel


Dear Dixie,

On the last day of the week of the first week of school we come to the undeniable case of Spike, the former seventh grader who is now an eighth grader who is an elf. 

Spike was an elf in seventh grade and he is still an elf and he is ageless and changeless and brings fun and humor and mischief to the dreary world of the rest of us boring people.  I have that certain funny feeling that we’ll come to the undeniable case of Spike every day this year.

This year, Spike has no more—or less—freckles.  He still has a million of them.  His head hairs still stand on their ends.  Like a mood ring, the color of his eyes still change from blue to green when he gets worked up.  His voice is still squeaky.  Spike has grown to a height of ten inches.

He is constantly moving, picking at something on his flesh, thinking, pondering, brooding, calculating, prognosticating, anticipating, commenting.  His eyes are always open and watching for opportunities to please.  His manners are natural and wonderful and instantly make me feel better. 

Outside, during breaks, he’ll have in his hands a string.  Then the string will end up with two knots, one on each end.  Then Spike will come show you how the string he’s been playing with might be used to save civilization from evil.  In several different and believable ways.  Just him and a string with knots.  I don't have a reason not to believe him.

He comes to school with a small ball covered with massage nubs.  He also pulls out of his pocket a multi-colored plastic contraption that spreads out into a ring you can throw to your pals like a Frisbee.  And when you’re finished throwing it to your pals you can squeeze it back and you can put it back into your pocket … but Spike doesn’t put it back into his pocket.  He keeps playing with it in homeroom … while we’re having our big group meeting on Friday morning where the teacher sitting next to him … me … has to constantly ask him to put it in his pocket.

Spike doesn’t put it in his pocket.  He puts it back there between the chair and his back.  Next to his massage ball.  Then he starts picking at something on his left leg with the metal ring of a pencil that would have held the eraser but the eraser has already been bitten off and the rest of it pulled out to be inspected and put to some use only Spike knows. 

Spike brought to school this week a huge ball of yarn he keeps in his jacket pocket hand-warmer pouch and off of the huge ball of yarn he spins fibers between his fingers and in a few minutes he’ll have a sturdy braid and later when you look again he’s turned the braids into some kind of coaster or hair extension.  Anything he makes he’ll happily give to you.

He is in constant motion.  Small, quick, constant motions.  He has bright, darting eyes.  A quick smile.  Always a Yessir and a Thank you and a You’re welcome.  If Spike is not an elf he is a tree squirrel who drinks gallons of espresso.

I think he's an elf who likes to act like a tree squirrel.

He recently, in another class, probably under the cloak of the desktop, came into the afternoon homeroom with dollar bills he had formed, origami style, into butterflies, onto which he had attached large paper clips so that when he placed the currency concoction above each ear the paper clips would also be inserted into the hair so they’d stay in place while we admired them.  He moved his head from side to side.  He was sitting in the desk with both legs underneath him.

This week, preparing the fall semester Georgia History syllabus, which the students sign, then becoming a contract, I’m asking them what three or four things can I do in the classroom as your Georgia History teacher this year to help you help me help you.  I came to Spike. 

Spike said he appreciated having study guides prior to tests; that he enjoys projects; he is delighted thoroughly and educated by going on lots of field trips; and he loves watching documentaries on the flat screen TV in the corner.

I can do that.

Spike is a one in a million billion 8th grader elf, who coats then soaks me with his personality every day, but he’s right in line with the rest of my historians on what I can do, seriously and syllabus-wise, to help him help me help him … God help us.

Before we went home today, in the last home room of the day, as they pack up and see me melt into an end-of-the-week giddiness and goofiness they like, I ask Spike what else I could do to help him succeed in school and in life and help me help him help me.

It’s as if Spike had been waiting for the question all of his life.

Spike immediately says he’d like to have spider legs that could pop out of his back and help him crawl across the ceiling.

I ask him, giggling, actually trying to keep the giddiness going … And anything else?

And he’d like to have the power of invisibility.  In his elf voice, Spike says, he’d like to have the power of tele-por-tation.  Spike says he’d like to have a long monkey tail grow out of the end of his spine that he can whip around. 

You cannot deny this child.  No one, of any age, can deny Spike his time in their face and life.  So we burst out laughing and point at Spike and pat him on the back. 

He sort of understands.  Spike thinks the way he thinks is no big deal and wonders why we find him so sensational.  I guess he really doesn’t mind anymore that we constantly gawk at him … in shock and awe and wonder.

It’s 3:15.  Lurlene screams from down the hall … LET’S GO!

Before Spike leaves for home and the first weekend of the school year, he out-of-the blue says to me with bright elf eyes and a smile … Do no da go hv i … pronounced, doh noh dah goh huh ee.  Cherokee for, Until we meet again.  Something Spike learned as a seventh grader last year ... four months ago ... in my mid-afternoon study hall, Lunch & Squirm, and remembered across the span of a summer.

Until Spike and me meet again.  That would be early Monday morning. 

I can’t wait.



Next Entry ... September 29: Mental Gymnastics

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