T enters the classroom on Thursday pretty much like he always does- with crash, a bang, a thump, and often an "oops," or “oh, sorry.” He is a gentle giant, as tall as I am today, probably taller tomorrow. His coordination has not quite caught up with his rapidly growing body, and every day something— a can of markers, the electric pencil sharpener, a vase of flowers—or someone, most often his table partner, Kanesha—falls victim to his klutziness.
This morning T greets me by saying, “I have food poisoning. I was up all night throwing up.”
I have a momentary picture of T spewing his cookies on the state books. “Really?” I say. “Does your mom know you are sick?”
“Yeah,” he says, taking a chug from a 32 ounce bottle of apple green gatorade, “but she didn’t have anywhere to leave me, so I just came to school.”
“Great,” I think, imagining green gatorade on the test books. “Don’t drink too much of that, sweetie.”
T wanders off to his desk, stopping along the way to announce to several of his friends that he was up all night “puking.” His friends are only mildly interested. "Dang," says J. "Everybody's puking in our class," referring to an incident from the day before, where my quick moving para had saved the day by shoving a wastebasket under someone's chin five minutes before our second round of state testing.
We start testing half an hour into the school day. Each morning this week, I have given the kids a snack, just to make sure they have something in their stomachs when they take the test. Today it is granola bars. Given that his stomach hurts, I think probably T will not want a granola bar.
“Hey,” he says, as I hand a bar to Kanesha, “I’ll take one of those.”
“Are you sure? Doesn’t your stomach hurt?”
“It only hurts a little,” says T taking another slug of the the green gatorade, “I think it’s getting better. Can I have one of those please?”
I give T a granola bar and continue my distribution rounds. As I finish, I glance over to the other side of the room. T is eating powdered donuts.
“Hey,” I say, “I thought your stomach hurt.”
“It only hurts a little now,” he says, licking the powdered sugar film off his lips, then taking another slug from the now half empty Gatorade bottle.
About five minutes later, the assistant principal brings our bucket of testing materials.
“I don’t feel well,” says T, “my stomach hurts.”
“I can’t imagine why,” I think, picturing the 16 oz of Gatorade, and the granola bar, and the 6 powdered sugar mini-donuts T has consumed in the last half hour.
“I thought you said it was better,” I reply.
“It’s not,” T says, assuming a pained expression and clutching his stomach.
“Do you want to use the restroom before we test?”
“Nah,” says T. “I’ll be ok.”
We test for an hour. As I am proctoring, I keep glancing over at T. Visions of green Gatorade and powdered sugar doughnut, and granola bar continue to dance through my head.
We finish testing. T’s hands me his book and says, “I don’t feel good. I threw up like three times last night.”
“I know,” I say, “you told me that. Do you want to use the restroom?”
“Nah,” says T. “I’m ok.”
After the tests are turned in, it really is snack time. Our morning is four hours long and the school provides fruit every day. A few of my kids, T included, usually bring their own snack as a supplement. Today, T has a quart-sized Ziploc bag of chips. He inhales the chips as he makes the rounds, chatting with first one group of kids, and then another. He finishes his chips as he reaches the last group in the room.
“Hey,” he says to J. Can I have some of your cheetos…”