Schoolboy Wherever, Whenever (#219)
01 February 2006
Charlie started coughing on Tuesday night and his big forehead was hot. He fell asleep on the couch and, after we put him to bed, 95% of my thinking was on red alert for more coughs, cries, nightmares.
The other 5% was thinking, how am I going to fit 50 minutes of teaching into the 14 minutes max I am going to have? It was clear that Charlie was too sick to go to school on Wednesday and that he was going to be coming to work with me, as I had had to cancel those very classes last week when Charlie had been ill with something else.
Wednesday began with me urging Charlie into the black car at 8.28am and speeding over to the pediatrician's walk-in clinic where he was diagnosed with a respiratory virus. We sat around in Walgreen's waiting to get prescriptions filled; back home, Charlie curled up on the couch with the latest PBS Kids offerings as I typed up letters, worksheets, and handouts. We were on our way to Jersey City by noon.
Charlie sat up straight to view the world through the steel latticework of the Pulaski Skyway, then followed me to my office where he immediately sprawled himself across the two biggest chairs he could find, and then to my classroom.
Fourteen minutes? Charlie sat through two 45-minute language classes (on classical Greek participles, translating the Roman orator Cicero's first speech against Catiline ) in a desk, a respectful guest in schoolboy mode.
I have brought Charlie with me to other classes over the past few years (when I was teaching at different universities) and, while the two of us arrived in the classroom with a bag heavy with games, balls, DVD player, DVDs, CDs, snacks, Charlie would sit for maybe 3 1/2 minutes and then be up and chattering in the aisles amid the desks. I would have to cajole him into his seat for 30-second intervals and often ended up teaching with a boy in my arms.
Today, Charlie was not even perfect, he was phenomenal. Between the two classes, I had to help a student prepare a scholarship application and Charlie followed us around to the xerox room and as I signed and sealed envelopes. We did visit the student café for a precious soft drink but it's asking something out of the ordinary for any 8 1/2 year old boy to sit through a discussion of Latin grammar and the politics of the latter days of the Roman Republic--especially when that 8 1/2 year old has a less than 8 1/2 year old command of American English.
Class over, Charlie requested "bahthwoom" and I stood outside the men's room and called in reminders. I had put his stuffed green rabbit, the plastic pumpkin, the purple bear, and a blue pillow into his backpack and, as requested, he loaded these back up, along with half of the soft drink. "Backpack on!" I said and Charlie shouldered his load as we crossed the pedestrian bridge over Kennedy Boulevard.
So when twofold terror got ahold of Charlie late this evening, when he realized that he cannot take the "schoolbus" tomorrow because his hacking cough came back, Jim and I assured him, "this was a great day." How hard we tried to remind Charlie of this as his coughs got tighter. Then he looked us in the eye and cried out, and only a harsh cackle sounded. Charlie had lost his voice and--along with the fuzzy-headed delirium he might be feeling--it made him go ballistic. We've had a shallow impression in one wall of the living room since a bad behavior squall last summer and Charlie twisted and kicked and the dent became a real hole.
As he was calming down, Charlie aimed his eyes right at the hole and cried louder, except he couldn't, because his voice was gone. Jim piggybacked him back up to bed and I positioned the vaporizer so the steam would float up to Charlie's head and then sat on the floor until Charlie fell asleep.
Jim, who has also been coming down with something, has already planned to be home with and for Charlie, and so I can go to work without my guest and my students and I can just think about how participles are "verbal adjectives" and how "real Latin writers" keep shoving the verb all the way to the end of the sentence. Today, as I was ushering Charlie into my office, we ran into the chairperson of my department, who smiled a gentle "Hi Charlie" and (to me) "I didn't think he was so big?" (75 pounds, at the doctor this morning). I explained about how Charlie was sick and had to be at "my school" with me. "That'll be good for the students to see------" said my chairperson, with a knowing and kindly nod.
It was. And it was especially good for one young schoolboy who can barely wait to hoist his backpack and get back to the happy business of learning at his much-loved, much-missed school.
That picture of Charlie in the classroom was precious. He did extraordinarily well to sit through class. I took 5 years of Latin in boarding school, and although I always made A's in the class, I was often daydreaming.
Posted by: Alexander's Daddy | 02 February 2006 at 03:03
What an amazing little school boy Charlie is! Poor guy lost his voice, I sorry. I hope Charlie is feeling better so he can get back to all that great learning he loves so much.
Posted by: Eileen | 02 February 2006 at 05:06
Get well soon, Charlie! The very same illness has been traveling around my house. My husband is home with it now. Bud hasn't gotten it, but it seems it may only be a matter of time.
Charlie's impeccable behavior in class is even MORE impressive when you consider how terrible he probably felt. When I was sick, I don't think I could have sat through a Latin class (even one as engaging and dynamic as this one) without at least a few moments of really loud whining.
Posted by: mom-nos | 02 February 2006 at 07:24
Oh, poor Charlie. Why are all our kids getting sick? I guess it's the season.
How wonderful that he sat through the whole class!! I bet your students got a kick out of seeing him. But how sad that he lost his voice (and lost control) at the end of the day. That was a long day for both of you.
Posted by: gretchen | 02 February 2006 at 10:29
Charlie probably got more out of one day than I got from years of High School Latin. Of course, he probably was paying better attention than I ever did.
Posted by: Wade Rankin | 02 February 2006 at 17:53
I long for the days that K.C. will be able to sit like Charlie did! What a great kiddo!
Hope the little dude feels better soon!
Posted by: KC's Mommy | 02 February 2006 at 18:13