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The Smile

Title – The Smile

By – Karen Kimbrell

On the first day of this school year, I noticed a boy sitting in the back of my classroom, expressionless, apathetic, and unmotivated. He quickly became a child that consumed a lot of my thought time. He never smiled, He never interacted with his classmates, He looked and acted the same every day – expressionless and unmotivated. I went to his 3rd grade teacher and she said “Yes, that’s John. He’ll be that way all year.” He attempted little of his work, he seldom raised his hand, and his facial expression never changed. I think that is what grabbed me the most – he was flat emotionally all day, every day. When you would hug him or show any kind of affection, he showed nothing in return. He was just “there”. As the school year progressed, it was obvious to the class that he was different, but they just ignored him, They knew what he was like from being in previous classes with him, but I didn’t want this year to be like every other year. One day this past February, I was teaching at the overhead and I looked right at him and he smiled at me! I was so stunned and elated everything stopped! I stood there a moment and went over to him and threw my arms around him. He didn’t react to the hug, but he smiled! The first change in his expression I’d seen all year! Now its May and a few more things have happened, He’s interacting a little more with his peers, he’s completing some of his assignments, and he’s realized that he’s good at reciting poems – so he recites quite often! But the biggest thing is that he feels a connection with me. Shortly after “the smile,” I returned to my classroom after car duty, only to see John vacuuming our classroom, He said in a very shy voice, “I want to help you.” I was sick last week and out of school 4 days, I went to my front door and he had made me a card. It said, “Miss Kimbrell, the Bestest teacher in the whole world, I hope you fill better rill soon.” That little card is why I teach school and love what I do. It is because of all the little Johns that sometimes need more than the 3 R’s. By the way, while on my journey with John this year, I’ve come across some readings on a syndrome called “Aspergers” which I think he may have. It’s a very high functioning form of autism and quite interesting.

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Karen Kimbrell

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