Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Got My Goat

Most people are familiar with the old expression, "got my goat". It is used to express how someone has caused annoyance to one's self on such an extreme level that reasonableness and logic begin to go out the window. If I were to share with one of my co-workers right now that one of my students, Alejandro, has really got my goat, they would probably flash me a sympathetically exasperated look and await tales of relentlessly repulsive behavior that is steering my class towards disaster.

But, I've found a new definition for this timeless saying. While I'm experiencing the same loss in reason, and my classroom is not running as smoothly as a result, I guess you could say I'm dealing with a different kind of goat...

A Hilarious Goat

There was a time that Alejandro didn't have me constantly in stitches--in fact, quite the opposite. The most impulsive case of ADHD I've ever seen with a nice dose of Aspergers to dull his social awareness, it was quite the challenge to transmit any knowledge of English with the spontaneous pacing of the classroom and endless string of jungle sounds emitting from his mouth. I suppose the saving grace that prevented me from secretly begrudging his very presence in my classroom was that, despite his never-rending disruptions, he truly wanted to succeed and much of his impulsiveness was just plain out of his control.

I think the day the day Alejandro started to get my hilarious goat was when he was working in my room, but I was on plan period and, free from supervision duty, I was free to sit back and just watch the show. One of his most winning qualities is his insanely infectious laugh. A perfect cross between Beavis and Butthead in pitch and cadence, it is just as easy to get one out of him as the famous MTV teenagers. As he worked on his laptop, Annie and I--feeling a bit squirrelly--attempted to replicate his laugh. Without missing a beat, he responded with his own laugh as if it were a triggered reflex. I have found other triggers to be the mention of any food or animal, and the conjuring of random, bizarre mental images--particularly mental images involving animals and food. (Example: A cat eating a hotdog. That would have him in hysterics instantly.) With time, I find the tables are turning to where Alejandro's laughter automatically triggers my own, and I'm powerless to stop it.

As I began to appreciate Alejandro a bit more for his quirks, I one day stopped my normal frantic bustle preparing for English class to soak in his trademark entrance to the classroom. I promise there has not been one day this year Alejandro has simply opened the door, walked through the threshold and headed straight for his desk in the normal fashion. Some of his many variations on the expected behavior include jiggling the door handle wildly before opening the door, thrusting the door open and then disappearing from the doorway to feign the appearance of a ghost, bursting through the door screaming indecipherable absurdities, and/or walking in and throwing himself across his desk or chair that requires a greeting of: "Alejandro, get down." The most "normal" arrival in recent memory was sitting down at his desk after several requests to do so, folding his hands in front of him and saying in a perfectly neutral tone, "Shall we proceed?"

That leads me to Alejandro's notorious utterances. As previously mentioned, much that escapes his lips is pure nonsense. He is highly adept at combining random syllables into gibberish, then neatly inserting the gibberish into a grammatically correct sentence. His default gibberish is "Wombo Fish" and it may make an appearance at any time.

"A verb is a Wombo Fish."

"6 to the Wombo Fish equals 36."

"Miss T, I can't do my work, I don't have my Wombo Fish."

His impressively extensive vocabulary often aids in the hilarity of the nonsense. Just this past week, frantically in search of his pencil, Alejandro exclaimed: "Where is my babushka?!?"

I could go on for ages with little anecdotes like these, but the core issue here is that Alejandro has accomplished something that only one in about every 20 students is capable of. He has cracked my stoically professional facade and ruined my objective treatment of the students as far as classroom rules goes.

Lucky for me, Alejandro is marching to the beat of a drummer that bangs so loud he doesn't realize his opportunity to take advantage of his power over me. Even luckier for me, the others in my class have the maturity and intuition to understand the exception I have made for their classmate. The other day, after responding to Alejandro's disruptive exclamations with a helpless giggle, I sobered up and reminded everyone this was not a precedent for allowing silly antics from the rest of them. One of the others, Nick, reassured me, "We know, we know, Miss T. We probably couldn't pull it off the way Alejandro does if we tried."

Wise words from a student with major emotional difficulties. Perhaps we all have something to learn from Alejandro and his Wombo fish.

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