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A Day in the Life of an Impoverished School..

June 9, 2013

As usual, the 4th grade Vietnamese boy opened his classroom door 20 minutes late. Traffic on his walk from the projects next door again, perhaps?

“Hurry up & put your things away, Tommy”, I said as he thrust the tardy slip he’d been clutching into my hand, “we’re about to start MCAS.”

I couldn’t help but notice his gait as he walked away towards the coat hooks and cubbies. He usual rushed pace was absent; he walked cautiously, gingerly, almost like he didn’t want to set foot on the ground at all.

I walked over to the coat rack and found a private corner nearby.

“What’s wrong with your feet, Tommy?” He stared at the ground.

I glanced at the clock and began to feel the anxiety build. We were already ten minutes behind schedule now, but were waiting for some more #2 pencils to be delivered anyway before we could start, so there was really nothing I could do anyway. Of all the days to have a pencil shortage.

“Honey, what’s wrong with your feet?”
Tommy’s eyes remained fixed on the stain on the rug. “Tommy, what happened to you?”

My messenger returned with the 10 pencils we needed. I sent her back out in search of a sharpener and 10 erasers. God forbid we splurge on the pencils that come with erasers on one end.  Not even for MCAS I guess.

“Tommy, take off your shoes for me please”.

I pretended not to notice the stench or holes in his filthy socks; it was amazing for him to even be wearing them at all, regardless of the near foot of snow that lingered in the March world outside.

Tears spilled from his eyes as he reluctantly obliged my request. It was clear he was stifling screams of agony as he peeled one sock off his scuzzy, bony foot. Seconds later I found myself stifling my own screams of horror, then rage, upon seeing it’s sole. I prayed I wouldn’t vomit or lose composure at the sight.

“Honey, who did this to you?”
Again, Tommy remained silent. I knew. “Can you write it down for me?” He nodded.

5 minutes later I’d learned that Tommy’s feet (both feet) were a result of his forgetting to take out the trash the night before. His uncle’s punishment. Because Tommy forgot to take the garbage out, his uncle METHODICALLY burned the bottoms of BOTH FEET with a cigarette. I’d seen and heard about all sorts of unthinkable torture perpetrated upon innocent kids too many times to think about, but this definitely ranked Among the top 3. I was struggling to decide an appropriate response or reaction, unable to tear my eyes from the hideous flesh in front of me.

“Um…Mrs Conroy? Mrs Conroy they only said that only had 4 erasers for now but were trying to locate 6 more I told them I needed 6 more and they told me to get upstairs I already should’ve started but i said how can we start when we don’t have enough pencils and they said theyd find us the erasers but u can always cut them in half if you….ohmygodmrsconroywhathappenedtohisFEET?!”

My messenger was back. Standing right next to me.

“Honey, go sit down. He’s gonna be fine”…oh my god the MCAS.

The door opened again. “Mrs Conroy you haven’t started? The test was to start 30minutes ago now”, my AP said as she walked across the rug toward tommy and I, “Oh!”

I filled her in on what had happened and she took him b the hand and said, “Okay I’ll take care of him…you get going”. & she helped him out of the room as comfortably and inconspicuously as she could.

OMG the MCAS. Ok, where’s my administrators manual?


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