Steve was the weirdest classmate I’ve ever met because he was an absolute brilliant genius.
My school was predominantly ages 10-12, but we also had a Community Outreach building on the grounds which housed a school for students of all ages who were disabled.
Steve had Down Syndrome. He was in the Community Outreach classroom for all but one day per week when he joined our class.
Each week the “regular” students were given a list of 50 spelling words and expected to memorize them. Not an easy task. Each week we had the option to complete exercises which earned us “points”. By Friday, week’s end, we needed to have accumulated 50 points to pass that week’s lesson plan. We had to design a board game, for instance, using each spelling word which might earn us 10 points towards that week’s goal. Writing a story using each word in a sentence might earn us 30 points, and so on. We needed 50 points. The only exercise which earned us the “Full Monty” was an oral spelling test given by the teacher while standing in front of the entire class of students as they watched on. A daunting task, to say the least. Missing one spelling word, you’d flunk the test and lose all your points for the week and need to not only do the previous week’s exercises but the current week’s as well. It could be very easy to fall behind taking the oral exercise. I attempted it only once. I got 49 words correct and botched the 50th! Boy did I feel stupid.
Now Steve…he was a spelling genius. And had nerves of steel!
Each and every week he’d visit our classroom and stand before our class and challenge the teacher to give him the oral spelling test. 50 words. No errors. He’d earn his 50 points in one go.
Spell “pugnacious” the teacher would intone.
Steve, the ever cool, would begin…p-u-g….NACIOUS! Pugnacious!
And so it went. One after the other. Flawlessly. 50 words. Never a mistake.
Ever. Week after week.
We always gave him a standing ovation. What an accomplishment! He became our mascot. Our hero.
Steve was never bullied on the school yard as you read about today. He had Down’s, but we all recognized something special in him. He taught us something. There is often genius and complicated wisdom in the most simple and elegant things in life. That I missed my 49th word is indicative of my life. Something is definitely missing. I admit it.
Yet, Steve nailed each and every spelling test flawlessly until the end of the year. Never missing one letter and never hesitating. He knew in his heart the right letters to say. Perfectly.
We gave him a party. We hugged him. He was our buddy.
We were proud of him.
Sadly, as life went on for the rest of us and as we graduated from Jr. High, then High School, moved on with our lives and out of our small community, Steve was never able to make that transition.
Life is shorter for people with Down Syndrome.
My mother sent me his obituary while I was attending classes in college. I wept as I read they had misspelled his name.
A true Story.
He wasn’t my classmate but a junior who was a new student.
This boy changed the scores of his official school result card but was unlucky to be caught by his Dad who immediately reported his Son to the school authority.
As expected, His son was sentenced to receive 20 strokes of the cane to be delivered by the most Notorious student-beater teacher. After reading out the punishment to the assembly of students standing, the teacher stepped forward to do what he does best even better than his official/paid job.
A brand new 2 m cane was deployed out of the school arsenal of canes.
Then it started!
The first heavy lash on the boy sent shivers and released fear in the atmosphere.
2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th lashes followed………… Then something happened.
Not the boy, it was the cane that broke into pieces. Phantasmagorical!
But the craziness never stopped, another cane was deployed again to continue the sentence.
Till the 20th and final lash, this boy never moved, neither shivered nor cried. It was indeed a bad day for the Canes and the Beaters.
This Boy’s bravery made him a hero/idol to his fellow classmates and even his seniors.
Beating students excessively never works.