Yesterday, while I was walking my class upstairs with William at the front of the line (which is not where his line spot is, but you try getting him to stay in his place), he enthused to me: "We're going to have a party!"
"Where, in after-school?" I asked.
"No, in our class!" he responded, jerking a thumb to the back of the line. There was Arianna carrying three boxes of Entenmann's Halloween cupcakes that I had no idea were coming.
Now, Friday was Joan's birthday; Saturday was Arianna's. A few days before, Arianna had said to me: "My dad asked if the class could sing happy birthday to me, but I don't want to take away from Joan's birthday."
My hardened, blackened teacher heart melted, and I assured her we could sing to both of them. But I had not been forewarned about the cupcakes.
Arianna is a holdover; she was in my reading group last year. She is a quiet, sweet little girl who tries very hard, has low self-esteem, and giggles when I tell jokes to the class. Naturally, I adore her. I get the impression she doesn't necessarily get pumped up by her family at home, so I was surprised they went out of their way to send her in with birthday cupcakes. Here was the problem: There were 18 cupcakes for my 27 students. (Well, 25...thank goodness Julio was absent and William was with a pull-out teacher, because the day might have ended with a food fight instead of singing if they had been there.)
That's why, seventh period, I found myself sawing through the gooey cupcakes with a plastic knife. Robert gave each student half a paper towel, Tanya collected all the garbage, and I handed out baby wipes so everyone could clean their frosting fingers. Then a student from across the hall popped in to offer me a cupcake from her birthday party. When she proffered the box of cupcakes, I nearly fainted: They were from Magnolia Bakery! You bet your sweet frosting I took one.
As we all settled in to eat our cupcakes, my students started venting their complaints about William: "I know why I can't behave," Jose said sadly. "It's because William keeps saying mean things, and I try to ignore him but he keeps saying them, and then I just get so mad!" Melinda agreed: "When William keeps coming to my table and bothering us, my brain just gets so angry and I just have to say something to him."
And I really can't blame them. They're seven years old. It's hard. Even I can't control my anger at William sometimes. How do I explain to them that William is angry, and frustrated, and compensates for that by trying to bully them? How do I explain that William is obviously not in an appropriate setting, that we're working to find a better environment for him?
All I know is, for forty minutes on Friday afternoon, I got a taste of what my classroom would be like without William and Julio. And oh my, it was sweet.