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Clayton - Sometimes The Special Need is Hidden

Updated on January 1, 2013

Clayton Always Smiled...

Clayton was a fourth grader my first year as a teacher. I was working in special ed, but was still working on getting my special ed degree at the same time,so it was a tough year in a lot of ways. But I had wonderful students that made up for all the trouble I had...

I had seven students that year. They all stood out for different reasons. Clayton stood because he was so "normal" Clayton came from a good family with a mother, father and older brother and sister. They all seemed to love each other and take care of each other. Clayton was a popular boy and had lots of friends, both boys and girls.

Clayton came in every day and tried to find as many ways as possible to not work. Since it was my first year, it was easy for any of the students to get me off on a story instead of teaching. Clayton was very good at getting me to tell stories...

He was also very good at getting other people to smile. He just had a way about him.

When I had him in fifth grade, he was the same bright young man. He was excited that he was able to help his brother work on a classic car. He talked about it quite a bit. Until one day..

One day Clayton came in and asked me for some homework. He was sad and I could tell that he had been crying about something. Since he had come in early, there were no other students in the class. I asked him what was going on. What he told me was just unbelievable...

"My brother was at a party last night. He wasn't supposed to be drinking, but him and his friends were. They were drinking a lot and being just stupid...His friend brought out a gun..It wasn't loaded...that's what he said. He had taken all the bullets out. Then they thought it would be cool to play Russian Roulette...and since the gun was empty no one would get hurt...everyone did it...they pointed the gun at their heads and pulled the trigger. Then it was my brothers turn. The gun was supposed to be empty. My brother pulled the trigger.....he shot himself in the head....he was dead before he made it to the hospital....I gotta go...I wasn't supposed to tell about it....I miss him so much already...."

It was a very sad week. Some of the other teachers and I went to the funeral. It was just so sad to see his family and how they were grieving...I hugged his mom and dad, and then hugged Clayton. I didn't know what else to do...I did tell him that if he needed someone to talk to I would listen.

Clayton stayed home from school for the next week. When he returned, he wasn't quite the happy go lucky that he had been before. He tried...but he always had this lonely look in his eyes. I tried to talk to him, but he didn't want to talk. I understood....I just wanted to make everything all better for him and knew I couldn't change things...

This happened close to the end of the school year, so soon it was time for summer. Clayton and the others were gone for the break, Since he was moving on to middle school, I didn't expect to see him anymore. And I didn't for a long time. It was almost three years later when he just walked back into my classroom.

He had certainly grown since I had seen him last. He was now taller then me. His glasses had been traded in for contacts. His hair even more blonde than before. He told me what he had been doing...and talked about middle school and how tough it had been. He let me know that his parents had divorced. They just couldn't handle the death of their oldest son. He told me his sister had a boyfriend that he didn't approve of.

He asked me about some of the kids he had come to my class with, and I got him up to date on everyone. Then he wanted to talk to some of his other teachers.I thought he would come back to see me before he left, but he didn't.

The next time I saw him, it was for him to graduate from high school and he had come back to give me an invitation to his graduation. He wanted to talk some more and asked if we could go talk alone for awhile so we found a quiet spot in my room. He told me he had some confessions to make.

He told me that he had avoided coming to see me for so long because he had been abusing drugs. He had gotten into a crowd of kids who were all about seeing how much trouble they could get in to. He had finally gotten away from them and found the right path to get back onto. He had finished putting his brother's car together and was now driving it. He also let me know that his sister had a little baby -- and that his mom had remarried and now he had a new little sister....

Right now, Clayton is attending college on a scholarship. He is getting a degree in sports medicine. He smiles again - and makes everyone around him smile, too....


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    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Full heart Mom -thank you for your comments ...I just always thought that listening was a part of the job!

    • full-heart-mom profile image

      full-heart-mom 5 years ago from Davao City, Philippines

      I was touched with the phrase" If he needed someone to talk to I would listen . I looked up to you dear justateacher. How I wish you have been my daughter's teacher. When I was in Thailand my daughter would run to her Gr. V teacher to have a chat. I know she missed me. But when she was telling me this and said, "Ma, my teacher would just turn her back and walk away," I was very hurt for her. Anyway I am back now in the Philippines and will always listen to my daughter as a mother and a teacher too. Like you I am also a teacher and I was so inspired with the story you have shared. More power to you and God Bless.....

    • Ms Chievous profile image

      Tina 6 years ago from Wv

      It is just amazing the stories you hear when you work with people. I am glad this one had a good ending.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 6 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      He is the one that decided to turn his life around and turn into the awesome young man that he is. I am very proud to have been able to touch his life.

    • LorenAyBe profile image

      LorenAyBe 6 years ago from Belgium

      Sad story with nice turn.It must be awesome to be part in the development of boy like that.