The smug approach of the teacher told us that waiting all day for individual attention was another little part of our lives that even we wanted to forget. The teacher had passed judgment already. We were drifting into another year of agonizingly slow death in the living tombs we called our bodies. The special education teacher also cased our behavior, taking care telling everyone that they were special and even smart, and under her way with words you could hear the autistic chatter we assigned to her, “All I need to do is get through this day and home to my priorities. Don’t make it complicated and do not signal a need for too much attention.”
Each of us heard her in a different way. I was appreciative of her responsibility and what her needs were, being understaffed if we were really intelligent. That would have been a problem for her if she were to work with each of us, given our varying multisplendored capabilities and learning levels.
Everyone always waited fearing what insult was coming to assault their easily punctured personal sense of dignity. We were already regarded as unintelligent and placed in a waiting program for eventual warehousing within a predefined set of options spoken and funded until our assumed deaths, testing the liberties thoughtful societies are supposed to have for their altogether competent and probably deepest thinkers. Peace was hard to discover in the souls of each student. We handled our individual circumstances differently. Really, everyone was impersonally always regarded as incompetent, so there was no empowering surprise to discover. The school system of many thousands had never discovered a single student of capability once they entered the gulag.
We sat patiently waiting to be insulted on an individual basis. Most of us were reasonably capable of optimism assuming the assault talk was inspired by a desire to help. Terribly, we were all victims of this system, teacher and student. The trap was sprung particularly impersonally for all of us by testing results, protocols, ignorance and terrifically shallow thinking that came to us all from the legacy of prior spams, each called an IEP, each limiting what quite creative teachers might do and resigning them to be keepers and wardens of our aides. With language, we might have reversed this, chastising those researching what was possible for us and sentencing us without our own rich voices ever being heard. We were all truly aboard a ship of the damned, making the best of it in a private comedy financed respectably with public funds. Even the administrators came to be trapped.
When we speak of this altogether silent work of reasonableness, we miss the reality of competent minds still in the system. I write parts of their stories to illustrate the play we shared. Owing to their privacy, everyone’s name is changed. They will recognize themselves in really descriptive holes of truth on the canvas of fallow listening for what others think they see.