Ms. Stevens had not been a teacher for long, granted. But in her so far short career, she had certainly grown accustom to the job. She could still remember the first day of teaching 2nd grade all by herself. She had of course worked in classrooms for almost two years, first as a student teacher and then as a teachers aid. The weekend before her class started she hadn't given it a second thought. Even leaving for work on that first day he roommate was practically a wreck, but not Ms. Stevens. The full impact of her situation wasn't apparent until she arrived at the gymnasium to collect her students and lead them to the classroom for the first time. She was petrified, and the kids knew it instantly. While other teachers ferried their classes in neat and tidy lines down the halls like something out of Madline, it took Ms. Stevens nearly 45 minutes to make the journey, collecting stragglers from every side room, lavatory, coat closet, and hallway as she went. Things eventually calmed down, and Ms. Stevens was generally comfortable with her position. She had even dealt with a few crisis―when Nathan fell from a stool hanging open-house decorations and broke his wrist, when Samantha, a little girl with a neurological disorder confined to a wheelchair, had a seizure and they had to call an ambulance. Despite her short time in teaching, she had gained a reputation for working well with difficult kids and situations, and the district would often send children with troubling family situations or medical conditions to join her class from other teachers who could not handle them. She was happy to take them on board.
Although it was almost half way through the semester, Ms. Stevens was told that she would be receiving a new student. Usually after about 3 or 4 months of classes the district would not let a student transfer until the next academic year, but an exception was being made for Scotty, then there was some talk that very high level strings had been pulled to make the transfer happen. This small breech in protocol didn't really concern Ms. Stevens, after all she was always happy to have new faces, and she began to prepare for Scotty's arrival. At first she considered informing her class. maybe they could put together some kind of welcome party, but she soon decided against it. Although the district hadn't given her any details of his case, her experience told her that if someone was transferring this late in the year, then something must be up, and it would probably be best to keep the excitement at Scotty's arrival to a minimum, at least until there was more information. Scotty arrived on a Thursday. Ms. Stevens came to the principle's office to meet him and bring him to class at about lunch time. She was hoping to have a short talk with Scotty's parents, but by the time she arrived, it looked as thought they had already left. She smiled at Susy the receptionists as she entered the office and made her way to the back conference room. She was about to knock when the principle, Mr. Green came up behind her and tapped lightly on her shoulder. "Oh, good morning," said Ms. Stevens, "where's Scotty." "Good morning, he's right inside. He's been in there for about an hour." "Oh my, I thought you said to come at..." "No, no, its not your fault, I had him come in a little early so we could talk before things started." "Oh, good, are his parents still here?" "Well I'm afraid he hasn't got any. I meant to get you a copy of his file. Scotty is transferring from the children's ward at county west. He's a ward of the state." Ms. Stevens was a little troubled. "Is he sick?" she asked. "Not as far as they can tell. He just doesn't talk." "Doesn't talk? You mean he's mute?" "They think he can talk, throat and all is just fine. He just doesn't want to. He seems to understand just fine. Can even write his name." "Does he write anything else?" "Not so far, but he's in there drawing right now. Quite prolific at it actually. Has a thing for cats." "You just left him sitting in there for an hour by himself?" "I tried talking with him, but it didn't seem to do any good. Maybe you'll have better luck." Mr. Green handed Ms. Stevens a manila file bristling with papers and began to leave. "Oh, the transport service from the hospital will be here to pick him up after school. Just have him wait here in the conference room. And ahh, well ... you'll see." Ms. Stevens leafed through the file she had been handed. A medical release, immunization records, some standardized testing scores. Then tucked the papers under her arm and knocked lightly on the door to the conference room. She could hear the light tap of crayons on paper inside the room, but nothing else. She opened the door and stepped inside. Scotty was sitting in the high backed chair at the end of the table, the one Mr. Green usually sat in during staff meetings. He liked to let new kids sit there while he talked with their parents. In-front of the boy was a haphazard pile of finished artworks, and next to the pile was a short stack of blank copier paper and an open box of crayons. Scotty had removed the crayons from the box and lined them up above his current picture, all facing the same direction and in order like a rainbow. When Ms. Stevens entered, Scotty didn't look up, but continued working on his picture. "Good morning. You must be Scotty. My name is Ms. Stevens, I'm going to be your teacher." Scotty continued drawing for a moment, and then placed the purple crayon he was using back into order with the others a looked up at Ms. Stevens. As he did, Ms. Stevens had to bite her tongue not to gasp. Above Scotty's eyes were two large black marks. At first Ms. Stevens thought maybe he had gotten crayon all over his face, but as Scotty continued to look up at her, she could see they were his eyebrows. They were black as ink, unlike his hair which was a brownish blond color, and from across the room it gave Scotty an almost cartoonish look. They were each nearly an inch tall, but the hairs must have been very short, because they seems to lay flat against his face. Ms. Stevens suddenly realized she was staring, and tried to move the conversation along. "Well, Mr. Green tells me you quite the artist, are these drawings all yours? Can I see them?" Scotty stayed silent, but seemed to be considering her request. After a moment, he picked up his purple crayon once again and continued with his drawing. Ms. Stevens walked in from the doorway and sat down at the table. "Well if you don't mind, then I'm just going to take a look at these." She reached over and gather the stack of finished works and began to leaf through them. "You know, my brother is an artist too. He paints murals on the sides of buildings." There was still no response from Scotty. As she flipped through the drawing, Ms. Stevens was amazed. There must have been over a dozen pictures, each meticulous and detailed. There were quite a few cats, as Mr. Green had said, but there were also giraffes, elephants, buildings, plants and trees, all drawn very realistically for a 2nd grader. "Wow Scotty, your drawings are very good!" There was still no response from Scotty. "Well, I'm sure your going to love my class. We do all kinds of fun art projects. Last year we made African tribal masks, and about a month ago we all designed and painted our own t-shirts. This year Mr. Green asked if we could decorate the set for the rain-forest play the 5th grade is putting on. Would you like to help?" Scotty was still silent. Just then the warning bell rang. Both Scotty and Ms. Stevens looked up as it chimed over the intercom system. "That's our warning bell Scotty. It means that the lunch period is over and class is going to start again in 10 minutes. That’s how you know when it's time to come in from the playground after lunch." Ms. Stevens gathered Scotty's drawings and placed them into a stack along with the file Mr. Green had given her. "Alright Scotty, would you like to come back to my room with me. I already had a desk set up for you, and I will introduce you to your classmates." Scotty carefully gathered his crayons back into the box and placed the box neatly in the center of the stack of blank paper. Then he placed the drawing he had been working on on top of the other pile and quietly got out of his seat to follow Ms. Stevens.