PRISM, Volume 1, Part 14
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PRISM, Volume 1, Part 14
Dangerous Dwarf Proudly Presents
George C. Chesbro's
PRISM: A Memoir as Fiction
Volume One: "Dark Engine"

Published by Apache Beach Publications

Click here to purchase Prism

Copyright © 2001 by George C. Chesbro. All rights reserved.
Reprinted here with by permission of the author.

Installment #14
prism

Well. I do seem to be stumbling my way through this summer of teaching the most severely disturbed adolescents in Little Ark. I suppose I may even be doing a good job.

Two weeks have passed since I started, and I have achieved my first success, "graduating" two patients. Perhaps. Lance and Adam, the most explosive and dangerous of my students, have fulfilled the terms of their contracts, but it is not at all clear to me or to the clinical staff that the two boys are ready to go back to the regular program. I do not want to set up either of them for failure, patting them on their bottoms and trotting them off to the regular program in the morning only to have one or both of them returned to me by afternoon after another classroom has been trashed, or a staff member or another patient attacked. Lance, in particular, is not sure he wants to go back, and no pressure is being put on him. I've reported their status to Dorothy, as school principal, and the boys' therapists, and now it's up to them to decide what step to take next, and when.

Now if I could only find something meaningful to write about. I am too busy during the day, and exhausted at the end of it, to even think, much less write, coherently. My plans for the "prism" project, are becoming increasingly blurred, but the thought of simply abandoning the idea frightens me; I have nothing else to do, and I must work. Although I would like to be, I am not yet free enough not to write and still feel whole.

Helma remains in isolation on the cottage after her suicide gesture a week ago, and there is still no sign of the mumbling and screaming, furniture smashing, nocturnal-roaming Jessica.

Roy, whose contract stipulates simply that he must "follow rules" and go five days in a row in class without the Crisis Intervention Team having to be called, has put together as many as three days, but that seems to be his limit. Usually, having the burly members of the CIT cart him, kicking, screaming and spitting, back to his cottage for one reason or another is a daily occurrence. Roy's a pisser. For a time I thought he was making progress, expressing his feelings and giving me something to work with, but I must have been delusional; he is as attention-demanding, manipulative and disruptive as ever. Trying to ease Roy out of Shangri La is liable to earn me a nice, padded room up the hill in Big Ark.

On Monday I'm told that Adam is scheduled to return to the regular program on Wednesday. On Tuesday it becomes clear to me that this boy, whose pending adoption could hang in the balance, is feeling considerable pressure, for he explodes in the morning, throwing desks and otherwise trashing the room. I call the CIT. Adam is unable to calm himself, so he is taken down and administered a shot of Thorazine in the buttocks, then strapped to a stretcher and carried back to his cottage. Fifteen minutes later, not to be outdone, Roy also goes off and is carted back to his cottage, thus abruptly ending a two-day string of relatively controlled behavior.

On Tuesday afternoon, Helma is allowed to return to class. The girl is all smiles, belying the fact that she has spent the last week and a half in isolation on her cottage after her latest attempt to kill herself. We have a pleasant, extended conversation, and, as when we've spoken previously, Helma seems rational and perfectly aware of her situation and what is at stake for her in the next few months.

I continue to be intrigued by the other staff members who come to my class to teach in their subject areas. There is the hopelessly neurotic Ken Goldstein, of course, with his inimitable style of teaching and his masterful way of dealing with emotionally disturbed children. Kelly Henson, the young, attractive English teacher who does not spell very well, has a history of relationships with abusive men. Bette Mason, a somewhat hulking, balding lesbian who teaches Language Arts, has a history of relationships with abusive women, including her current lover, who beats her regularly and occasionally throws her out of her own apartment. It is Bette's responsibility to teach remedial reading, but she's burned out as a teacher, and now most of her "lessons" consist of playing video tapes for the students. Diane Ciccotto teaches math and is the computer consultant for the school. Diane has married the same man twice, and she and her husband are currently having considerable difficulty with their two teenage sons. The entire family goes to therapy twice a week.

Aside from Dorothy, it seems to me that the most emotionally balanced member of the school staff is also the most clueless, virtually oblivious to what's going on around him. Harvey Bingley, the science and advanced math teacher, is slight in build, obsessive and rigid. It is a rare occasion when the CIT is not summoned to Harvey's class two or three times a day, because he drives the patients to distraction. The brightest students in the hospital routinely lose control in the face of Harvey's iron-fisted enforcement of every rule, with no exception. Of course, this is precisely how the Boys Town PEM is supposed to be administered.

The patients may dislike Harvey intensely, but I've noticed that they also respect him. I consider him an outstanding teacher, particularly when he is able to practice his craft free of the raucous interruptions and visits by the CIT that routinely take place when he is teaching in his own classroom. In Shangri La, I've afforded him that freedom. Because of my presence, and the close proximity of the two aides who are always with me, Harvey rarely has trouble with my students. When a student does threaten to become disruptive, it is my responsibility, not Harvey's, to handle him or her. As a result, Harvey has told me, he finds the four classes that he teaches each week in Shangri La his most satisfying and rewarding. Harvey is always well prepared when he comes here. He usually carries a shopping bag stuffed with scientific apparatus and supplies for wondrous experiments and demonstrations. I thoroughly enjoy Harvey's classes, and so do my students.

I am also enjoying my self-defined job description of acting as "mother hen" and ringmaster of Shangri La. I am the authority figure my students must deal with before the academic teachers arrive, and when they leave. I "set the table" so that the other teachers may teach effectively.

Read the next installment.


Copyright © 2017, Hunter Goatley. All rights reserved.
Last updated 14-NOV-2017 09:34:04.22.