Slice of Life: That Was Unexpected

Last week, our classroom received a gift that was unexpected.

“That was unexpected,” is what one might say to a student who acted in an inappropriate manner. No shame and communication of expectations. But the thing is. Unexpected can be beautiful.

I have a student in my classroom who is autistic. He talks about his disability and about his desire for and trouble with friendship. All the adults in his life are aware, but the nine-year-olds have not been paying attention. Misunderstandings have accumulated. Feelings have been hurt. Then out of nowhere, the unexpected happened. And with it, minds were opened and hearts were engaged.

It changed with a poem.
A poem he wrote.
That spoke to his journey.
That he read to the class.

Students sat transfixed.
They raised their hands with questions.
about the symbolism,
the title,
the images.

About his inspiration,
his process,
his favorite poets.

About him
and his journey.

And they said,
“I didn’t know you had autism.”
And they asked,
“What is autism?”

He explained how he sees the world.
And how he is wired.
And how many creative people are like him.
But how hard it is.
Because he doesn’t see the world as most people do.
And they raised their hands and asked:
“Can I be your friend?
“Can I?”
“Can I?”
“Can all of room 32 be your friend?”

And, we wrote poetry. We had to.
He glowed,
and said. “I don’t understand, I’ve been telling them this for so long.”

“But with poetry, they heard you.”

We continue to write poetry. And while all problems are not solved,
we have found poetry as a place to create unexpected moments
of joy and laughter and friendship.