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The student had a reading specialist all to himself. A separate room. All to himself.

The teacher consultant – both the above-mentioned specialist who consults the student body’s capabilities in reading and scheduling, running, and completing paperwork for IEPs (individualized education programs) – read the test aloud to the student.

The student required a system for his learning disabilities and had gathered a bundle of valid accommodations over the years. By this point in his life, he’s acquired a well-intentioned process.

This woman – whom the student’s mother labeled as a government-assigned aide – was in her early seventies. “Sharp,” said the principal. “As a pin,” she’d return. “As a heart attack,” she’d return another time. For years, thirty-some of them, she’s called her boss Prince-Pal. In her time, wisecracks were considered inventive and party-like. She’d define her era, when she was in her all-time prime, as the 1980s. “But don’t let that fool you,” her boss would defend against anyone judgmentally questioning the little woman’s presence today. “She’s great.”

Prince-Pal was ten years her junior. He once found her exhilarating and, had she shown any romantic interest, would have pursued. “Zero percent animosity or awkwardness between us,” she explained to the math teacher. Both math teachers. All five, in fact. After each return from summer, lengthy tales involving the principal’s infatuation with the short woman got around. “Never unprofessional,” she and the principal would say at different ends of the halls on different days, for years, verifying their professionalism and consistent friendship.

“Historically, there’s a constant turnover of math teachers here,” she informed the new history teacher. She also used this line for the physics teacher; however, “turnover” was imprecise, hardly a term in his lessons, and would have been better suited for the gym teacher. “He named one of his games ‘turnaround,’” she announced to the empty hall. She was mistaken, and no one was there to enlighten her.

In addition to the applicable titles like “reading specialist,” “teacher consultant,” “government-assigned aide,” and “great,” she was a “tutor.” Her academic history lost somewhere in the void of the late 1990’s and forever onward. She’d become a job that was never hers in the beginning.

For the past twenty-some years, students and staff rarely paid attention to the woman. She was usually referred to as “her,” and for a brief period, “The TC with No Name.” Never, though, was “no name” a nickname. Never was “TC” understood to be the initials of her official job title (teacher consultant). She’d never acquired a nickname long enough to raise curiosity about the T and the C. In this building of expendable kids and staff, she was negated and not seen as a real human with real history.

Third time in a week, she’d read the passage to the student just as she would next week’s assignment.

The student reeked of weed and wore a pair of dark sunglasses beneath a drooping hood. His ear buds ticked and muffled the music’s damaging bass.

He never heard or learned anything throughout the hours he spent with her.

She, however, did her daily best.

Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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