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  • Morgan joined the first grade class part way through the year. He was eager, bright, and impatient to get on with it.

    Mr. Ben, Mr Ben, he waved his writing to call me over. The class was working on a unit on exploration and he had a story going about ships and storms and pirates. The rest of them had bland sentences under highly detailed pictures. His pictures were bold and strong and spare. His words flowed.

    As the weeks went by the cracks started to show. The trouble started on the bus with his older brother.

    Morgan’s arms were crossed across his chest and he frowned ferociously when Mr William called me over.

    Mr Ben, Morgan, he won’t sit where he is supposed to, Mr William told me.

    It took a while but Morgan sat where he was supposed to with the understanding that if he showed Mr William he could be in charge of his body we could talk about seating alternatives.

    It didn’t stop with the bus. He started appearing at my office door. A step and a half behind his teacher, her hand tight on his arm. Every day, sometimes twice.

    After a while she stopped escorting him. He’d stand in the door until I saw him. We’d nod.

    He’d sit at the table in my office and draw while I pretended to finish something and then we’d talk.

    He told the stories straight up, plenty of detail. No angst, just his set of facts. They followed a predictable pattern: Provocation, feeling, retaliation, busted, defiance.

    After we talked I’d ask if he was ready to go back. Sometimes he was, sometimes he’d read for a while first.

    You know Mr Ben this is really quite a good story.

    I’d look up. Now I was trying to get something done.

    Why’s that Morgan.

    Well, you see, ....

    I had quite a stack of books in my office. He read them all.

    The teacher and I made up a behaviour plan. Objectives, a clipboard, check-ins with me at the end of the day. Smiley face, plain face or sad face.

    There were a lot of sad face days.

    Once it was about drawing a picture. The teacher showed me the angry scrawl tearing through the crumpled paper.

    I don’t know how to draw people, he told me after she had left.

    We took a field trip to the library and I showed him where the drawing books are. He chose a few and I checked them out. The system said he had too many books. I told it to ignore that.

    A couple of weeks ago, it was a fight with Astrid. You see she had said she hated me and so I…….

    At the end of his telling I asked him, Morgan, when Astrid looked at you what did she see.

    He thought a moment and showed me. He does an angry face very well.

    So, Morgan, what do you want people to see, which Morgan do you want to show?

    He thought about that one. Well, he said, the funny Morgan. I used to make people laugh at my old school. I told jokes and they laughed.

    We took another field trip to the library and I showed him where the joke books were.

    That Friday at lunch I was eating a walking lunch stopping at the tables, helping to open packets and containers, making smiley faces with ketchup.

    Maena grabbed his book. He snatched it back. It was going to get ugly fast.

    That is a very cool book, I said. It was. Warlocks. Demons. All the facts.

    I spread it open on the table between them and a crowd appeared around us, looking at the pictures. Morgan began to read smoothly, the text that was well beyond any of the rest of them.

    Maena said, Morgan is a very good reader

    Yes, I said, he made it sound exciting didn’t he

    At the busses that afternoon I asked him what had happened at lunch. With the book. He thought a moment. Which Morgan did they see, I asked. He thought some more.

    I didn’t see Morgan the next week until he came panting into my office about 2:30 on Friday.

    Its all on the tenth he said showing me the clipboard, there were notes of two incidents minor. Picking a scab to get to the nurse. Nothing of the anger and the hitting out and the retaliation from the past months.

    Shit, I thought, she is really stretching for something, but I didn’t let anything show.

    3 smilies, he said.

    I drew the three smiley faces beside his behavioural goals

    We sat down at the table in my office in the big, green, comfy chairs.

    What do you think made the difference, I asked.

    Well, he said, leaning back in the chair, I just knew you wanted me to behave .

    But you could have made a different choice, I said, you could have said ____Mr Ben.

    He grinned, filling in the blank.

    Yeah, he said, but I heard you and then I decided to do, you know, choose to be who I wanted to be.

    We both smiled.
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