Two years ago, as I railed against the injustices Marshall faced in the only way I knew how (by being angry), Bridget took it upon herself to approach a negative playground interaction by introducing Marshall to a classroom of young students. There, kids asked questions in a safe space, and Bridget educated rather than eviscerated, which is what my brain would scream to do all the time.
I followed her lead and brought Marshall into my own classroom late that school year. It was the most anxious morning of my life, wondering who would react how and maybe it was a bad idea and things were going to go horribly wrong and oh my god why did I do this.
Well, unsurprisingly, it turned out much better than I had predicted. Sure, I still lost a few kilograms of sweat that morning, but it was an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. As for the impact on my students, that’s harder to say. I could guess, but the most tangible evidence that it made an impression is that those students – now in grade five or six – still ask how Marshall is doing on occasion.
Recently, Marshall came back to my school to meet several more classrooms of third- and fourth-graders who recently finished reading Wonder at school. When he last came into a classroom here, Marshall’s life – and my outlook on the future – was starkly different. He had no fingers. I believe he had just started sitting up on his own. Walking was still many months away. He could not hear clearly. Sleep was still coming in one-hour bursts every night. I re-read a few early posts from that time, and the words are like a sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden nightmare.
I walked Bridget and Marshall to the first of two classrooms earlier today. I excused myself and then walked away to finish some work before turning around and watching secretly from the hallway, as far from the door as possible. I watched students learn something new in the moment Marshall sat down on the little blue chair at the front of the class. Marshall, of course, had no true grasp of the situation, so he looked around quietly, listening to his mother introduce my little muffin to the curious children seated in front of him. I lingered a bit too long, and in the course of his scanning the walls, he saw a face he recognized.
“Dadda,” he called out as he waved his little left hand at me. I smiled and walked away, caught peeking by the clever little monkey.