I suspect I knew that Tuesday was going to be my last day at school.
We had been having some trouble with a student whom I’ll call Ellie. Ellie was pressured to leave her Catholic school and, over time, we pieced together why. She had been placed in a rather catty class, but most of the biggest bullies had powerful parents. This was the class that was trying to date people in third grade, which is unusually early in Catholic school circles, so it was no surprise that by fifth grade, when this other school always had catty girls, this class was wretched. Unlike those girls, though, everyone seemed to act like Ellie was the problem, because likely of her developmental delay.
Ellie was making great strides in our school and it didn’t hurt that we were trying to overtly teach social skills, but not in a pre-prescribed kit kind of nonsense. More like real life, breaking ideas down and testing them out in ways that made sense to our kids.
So the day I left was the day after she’d been trying to tell all the girls about some very PG-13 things that happened to her. The trouble is, these things didn’t happen to her; she’d read about them online and really thought she could make friends and bond over telling these much younger and less mature girls about them. At the same time, she could cement the idea she was older than they (though developmentally, they were nearly identical in age). We had to get it to stop since it was starting to freak out one of the girls and her mother was growing concerned. These parents were patient, but at a certain point, it was getting too hard. The trouble is, this was the “rule” Ellie had learned about fitting in from that class of girls where stories like this would be normal and so would bullying and dividing girls into “best friends” and not friends.
So when Ellie arrived in the morning earlier than usual and she and I were the only two at school, we had a talk. A long talk.