Tracy stood outside the high school classroom. The child-like calendar on the wall captured her attention as did the interaction between her best friend and the students. She moved away fast when the bell rang then quietly snuck into the room.
“Tracy, you been here long?”
“Actually, yes. I’ve been watching the last few minutes of your class.”
Jessie sat back down to her stack of papers. “Why didn’t you come in? It would have been okay.”
“Ummm…no. I saw that girl in the wheelchair. She about whacked you in the eye.”
“That’s Allison. She has cerebral palsy. She can’t help it and feels really bad when her arms swing around like that. You didn’t come in because of her?”
“I guess because of her. I’m pregnant, remember.” Tracy held her stomach protectively. “I don’t want anything to happen to my baby.”
“Oh stop it. Have you forgotten I’m lots farther along than you?”
“Aren’t you scared you’ll catch something or your baby will turn out like one of them?”
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
“One of them? These are kids. That can’t help what’s wrong with them. What century do you live in anyway? Wow!”
Tracy sat on the corner of the desk. “I’m sorry but you can’t be too careful, you know.”
“Well, nothing in here’s catchy.”
“I hope you’re right.” Tracy watched her grade more papers. “Are you going to be much longer?”
“Give me a few more minutes. You in a hurry?”
“Have you smelled this place?”
Jessie took a big whiff. “What?”
“Come on. Don’t tell me you think this room smells fresh as a daisy.”
“I’m sure it doesn’t. The kids just got out of P.E. The boys were extra sweaty today. Oh, Rudy had an accident too. I forgot about that.”
“It smells like special ed.”
“Please don’t say that. You know I hate it.”
Tracy looked over Jessie’s shoulder. “Sorry, but it does.” She thumbed through the pile of already graded sheets. “Clocks? This is high school. They don’t want to do this baby work. What if the other kids see and make fun of them?”
“It’s what they need to learn how to do. The basics: counting money, telling time, reading.”
“I hope they don’t get beat up on your account.”
“I’m not too worried about that. Know what I am worried about?” Jessie put down her multi-colored pen and looked her best friend square in the eyes.
“I’m worried that one of these half-starved-for affection-girls will come in one day with a black eye from her dad and nine months later, a baby.”
”Know what else I’m worried about?”
“Ummm.” Tracy moved off the desk and away from Jessie. “What?”
“I’m worried that I’ll still be at this school when that baby grows up and is in this special ed class. I’ll watch history repeat itself. That scares me.”
“Are you worried that something like that might really happen to one of your girls?”
Rachel nodded and tears dripped down her face. “I already sent a girl to the guidance office. She’s been talking, Tracy. I don’t know what to do for her. I can’t even imagine. I have a cute little freshman that can’t keep his hands off the girls and his mouth needs to be washed out with soap. Most of the girls show so much cleavage, all I do all day is tell them to pull up their shirts.”
Tracy put her arm around her friend’s shoulder. You’re a great teacher. You’re truly making a difference in these kid’s lives.”
“I don’t think I am. They don’t seem to learn from their mistakes, Trace. Every day I say the very same things, over and over again. I get frustrated, so very.”
“I’m sorry, Jessie. You were upbeat and happy before I opened my big mouth. I’m so sorry. You know what? You’re right. This room doesn’t smell half bad,” Tracy said while holding her nose.
“Whatever. I guess I’m getting used to it. Is that a good thing?”
“I think it means you have great love for your kids. I could never teach. Especially not in a special ed class, not for a class like this. They’re way too needy.”
“You gave me plenty of practice dealing with needy people!”
“Very funny. Hey Jessie, I’m really proud of you. I appreciate what you’re doing and all, but let’s get out of here before I get used to the smell too, okay?”
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