Just Another Kid

Just Another Kid

4.4 9
by Torey L. Hayden

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Torey Hayden faced six emotionally troubled kids no other teacher could handle-three recent arrivals from battletorn Northern Ireland, badly traumatized by the horrors of war; eleven-year-old Dirkie, who only knew of life inside an institution; excitable Mariana, aggressive and sexually precocious at the age of eight; and seven-year-old Leslie, perhaps the most

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Torey Hayden faced six emotionally troubled kids no other teacher could handle-three recent arrivals from battletorn Northern Ireland, badly traumatized by the horrors of war; eleven-year-old Dirkie, who only knew of life inside an institution; excitable Mariana, aggressive and sexually precocious at the age of eight; and seven-year-old Leslie, perhaps the most hopeless of all, unresponsive and unable to speak.

With compassion, rare insight, and masterful storytelling, teacher Torey L. Hayden once again touches our hearts with her account of the miracles that can happen in her class of "special" children.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
A talented special education teacher with a gift for writing, Hayden dramatically describes the difficulties and joys of working with a small group of severely emotionally handicapped children. The centerpiece of this tale, though, is Ladbrook Taylor, mother of one of the children. Lad is very beautiful, very wealthy, highly educated, yet emotionally fractured, withdrawn, and alcoholic. She joins Hayden in the classroom as a volunteer aide. This potentially explosive situation gradually leads to a deepening relationship between the two women that ultimately allows Hayden to help Lad. In the process, Lad reveals her startling past, containing buckets of melodrama, easily on par with the juciest TV soaps. Riveting reading. Carol R. Glatt, Northeastern Hospital of Philadelphia

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Harper Element
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Chapter One

It was a hodgepodge setup, that classroom, not unlike the rest of my life at the time. The room was huge, a cavern ous old turn-of-the-century affair with a twelve-foot-high ceiling and magnificent large windows that looked out on absolutely nothing worth seeing: a brick wall and the chimney stack of the heating plant next door. A hefty chunk of the room had been partitioned off with gray steel industrial shelving units, used to store the school district's staff library. The L-shaped area that was left, was mine. Windows ran the length of the wide, long arm of the L, where the chairs and worktable were; the narrow, shorter arm of the L contained the chalkboard on one wall and the door at the far end. It was an adequate amount of space; I had taught in considerably more cramped conditions, but it was a quirky arrangement. The blackboard was useless because it couldn't be seen from the work area. And short of standing like a sentry at the junction of the two arms of the L, I could not monitor the door.

Most eccentric, however, was the district's decision to combine a classroom for disturbed children with a staff library.

This was to be the first official self-contained classroom in the district for E.D. emotionally disturbed-children since the mainstreaming law had come into existence back in the seventies. I was called a consultant resource person in my job description; the children were termed behaviorally disordered; and the classroom was known, on paper, only as The Center, but we'd come full circle. For me, walking back into the schoolroom that late August morning, having been gone from teaching almost six years, had provoked a sense ofintense deja vu. It seemed simultaneously as if I had been away forever and yet had never left at all.

I hadn't meant to be teaching again. I'd been abroad for almost two years, working full time as a writer, and I intended to return to my life in Wales, to my stone cottage, my dog and my Scottish fiance. But family matters had brought me home, and then Id gotten embroiled in the interminable red tape involved with gaining a permanent British visa. Every conceivable problem cropped up, from lost bank records to closed consulates, and one month's wait stretched out to three and then four, with no clear prospect of the visa's arrival. Disconcerted and annoyed, I traveled among friends and family.

A friend of a friend rang me one afternoon. I'd never met her, but she'd heard of me, she said. And she'd heard about my problem. They had a problem of their own, it seemed, and she was wondering if maybe we couldn't help one another out. One of their senior special education teachers had been taken unexpectedly and seriously ill. There were only ten days left before the beginning of the new school year, and they had no immediate recourse to another special education teacher. Would I be interested in some substitute teaching?

No, I'd said immediately. I was waiting for this stupid visa. If it came through, I wanted to be able to leave instantly. But the woman wasn't easily put off. Think about it, she said. If my visa did come through early, I could leave. They could find another substitute, if necessary. But otherwise, it would be a good way to spend my time. Just think about it, she urged.

Still I'd said no, but by the time the Director of Special Education contacted me, I had mellowed to the idea. Okay, I said. Why not?

Sitting there amid the paraphernalia accumulated for the start of another school year, I stared out the window at the smokestack, dull and gray in the summer sunshine. I was coming to the nettling conclusion that I wasn't a very well directed sort of person. I didn't have a career so much as a series of collisions with interesting opportunities. After ages away from teaching, an abortive Ph.D. attempt, several years in private research, a spell as a clinical psychologist, and time abroad spent writing, here I was again, sitting at a table converted by clutter into my teacher's desk. I enjoyed such unpredictability and diversity; indeed, I thrived on it. But I was also growing increasingly sensitive to how capricious my lifestyle actually was.

A knock on the door brought me sharply out of my thoughts.

"Torey?" a voice called. I couldn't see who it was from where I was sitting, so I rose. A secretary from the front office had her head around the door. "One of your kids has arrived," she said. "The parents are in the front office. "

The old building was no longer used as a school, but rather it housed the district administration offices, most of which were on the ground floor. I had the entire upper floor to myself as the rest of the rooms were used only for storage. In fact, there were only two functional classrooms in the whole building, mine and that of the full-day program for educable retarded preschoolers two floors below, in the basement. So the halls were hauntingly quiet on this first day of school.

I followed the secretary down to the large main office, alive with clacking typewriters and chittering word processors. A man and a woman were standing in front of the chest-high barrier that served as a reception desk. They would have been a remarkable-looking couple in any circumstance. The man must have been at least seven feet tall, because 1, at almost five feet ten inches, did not even reach his shoulder. But in spite of his size, he was soft and delicate looking, with gray hair in loose, tousled curls, like a child's. He appeared to be in his late fifties, and...

Just Another Kid. Copyright � by Torey Hayden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Just Another Kid 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was spellbound and couldn't put it down, and when I had read that book, I ordered everything else she ever wrote from Amazon (how's that for a recommendation?). This book, (and I say this without exaggeration) literally made me gasp at some parts and cry at some others. This is a book that I feel would be of value to parents of special needs children, but also to members of Alcoholics Anonymous, or anyone who believes (or wants to believe) that miracles can still happen to the most hopeless of "lost causes". Although learning about the kids was engrossing in and of itself, the real story comes from this slowly developed, constantly evolving relationship Hayden finds herself in with a parent of one of the students. Dr. Taylor is one of the most interesting characters about which I've read, which is probably the result of her being a real person and Hayden describing the reality of dealing with all sides, positive and negative, of a woman who has genius intelligence, lacks all social skills, is beautiful, an alcoholic, and at once narcissistic, sweet and vulnerable, as well as willing to change. The stories of the children keep the book moving; you love them, hope for them, are heartbroken for them, frustrated with them.. and all the while desperate to know what move Dr. Taylor is going to make next and how Hayden will handle it all. This book has some gut wrenching moments in it but not the nauseatingly horrific images and stories contained in Murphey's Boy and Ghost Girl. A must read.     
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought it was a good story. It certainly sucked me in and Torey Hayden tells stories well. Though her writing could certainly improve--it seems like she's does not have natural instinct for writing. Small things I noticed were odd sentence structure and using a small vocabulary-- for example using the word 'regard' often. Mostly just small nit picky details such as that. I have also noticed in this and her other books that there can be a slight narcissistic feel to her books, though I suppose that comes with the fact that they are about her experiences. All in all it is a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
You said: 'Has anyone else noticed that one child in every book does not talk and is unresposive?' Well, yes, because elective mutism is Torey Hayden's area of expertise. I'm not a special ed teacher but I would imagine a child who refuses to speak presents an extraordinary challenge and so Torey understandably writes often about her work with them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is another fantastic book by Torey Hayden. Her writing exposes so much about the people she describes that you feel like they are your own acquaintances. I truly loved this book, just like all of her books. I've read six of her books, and they're all wonderful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just finished reading the book and am now online purchasing Torey's other books. I have not enjoyed reading a book this much in a long time. As a person studying to be a teacher I found the things that happened in Torey's classroom to be abosolutly amazing. I have told many of my friends to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Has anyone else noticed that one child in every book does not talk and is unresposive? Or is it just me? Don't get me wrong I love her books, but I think she needs to write a book that doesn't involve a child that does talk.