A Dixie Diary is the classroom account of the rookie year of a fellow who changed careers to become a teacher ... who thinks kids are the most important people on Earth and that teachers and principals and assistant principals—as sneaky as they are—are pretty darn important, too.
A Dixie Diary is about the classroom lives of a good bunch of very special eighth graders. I taught Georgia history to them.
I became a rookie schoolteacher when I was old enough to have legitimate ear hair concerns, backed up with a little bit of wide-eyed substitute teaching experience and a whole lot of life experience. The classroom gave me a whole lot more. Ear hair included. I finally had to get one of those special ear hair shavers from Wal-Mart. Extra batteries, too.
The school, grades 1 through 12, was established exclusively for kids with a single or wide range of learning, behavior, and emotional disorders, including bipolar disorder; pathological narcissism; rhinotillexomania; rhinotillexis; mucophagy; autism; Asperger’s disorder; Angelman syndrome; dyslexia; attention deficit disorder (ADD); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); "Ring of Fire" ADHD; disorganized-type schizophrenia; Tourette syndrome; dyscalculia; dysgraphia; dyspraxia; dysphasia; dyssemia in all of its forms; aphasia; auditory processing disorder; visual processing disorder; hyperactivity; over stimulation; low, or slow, functioning; eating disorders; self-injury disorders; fetal alcohol syndrome; obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); generalized anxiety disorder; social anxiety disorder; school refusal; articulation disorders; receptive and expressive language disorders; nonverbal learning disability; disruptive behavior disorders, which include oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder; fragile X syndrome; Rett’s syndrome; and selective mutism.
The school doesn’t promote the opportunity to prospective parents to cure their child’s behavior or emotional disorders, but some students bring them along anyway—from mild to profound to disturbed. But that happens, of course, in all kinds of schools.
A few times in A Dixie Diary I have named for the reader the disorder in the vignette. In the rest of the vignettes I’ve allowed the disorder to speak on its own. Sometimes it speaks softly. Sometimes the disorder roars.
Identifying characteristics have been altered. Everybody’s names have been changed, too, except for mine, and Jerry and Jim in "Old School: Way Back in 10th Grade." Believe me, I owe them that.
The diary entries, however, tell exactly what happened during Georgia history class, around the school building built just for seventh and eighth graders, as well as on field trips. The name of the school, its ferocious animal mascot, and its specific location, are intentionally not noted.
The school is real, however, and it’s an inspiring and necessary place.
TODD SENTELL, Somewhere in Dixie
Next Entry ... Introduction To A Dixie Diary