Middle School Lesson on Life
It dawned on me that this was the reason he wore diapers. I felt sorry that I’d ever poked fun at him.
In sixth grade I had a nerdy, homely teacher for first period—Mr. Pennington. He wore diapers. Naturally, as 13-year-olds do, we made fun of him. Sadly, I participated. Most people whispered and giggled and some did so blatantly to ensure he could hear. He never flinched.
One early morning the class had pushed all of the desks to the perimeter of the room and everyone sat on the floor drawing, cutting, coloring, and gluing decorations for one holiday or another. We all chatted and laughed loudly at who liked who and who we didn’t want to sit with at lunch while Mr. Penninton stood precariously on a desk—one foot on the seat and the other on the table portion of the same desk—stapling our designs along the corkboard border above the chalk boards in the back of the class.
I was sitting with a group of girls very near to, but with my back to Mr. Pennington when someone whispered, “wouldn’t it be funny if he fell?” I stopped outlining the pattern on the paper to turn my head and look up at our teacher thinking, “no, not really,” but wanting to fit in, I just snickered and nodded.
As soon as I’d turned to look at the cheesy artwork in front of me there was a crash and loud thud right behind me. I jumped to my feet and spun around all at once. Whether the action was out of sudden fear from the noise or from sensing what had just occurred and knowing something needed to be done, I can’t really say.
As everyone stared and mumbled “oh shit” under their breath I scanned the room to see who was sitting closest to the intercom button by the door. All at once the girls shrieked and I turned back to look at Mr. Pennington convulsing violently on the ground.
“Cedric! Page the office, run next door, and get Mrs. Johnson!” He didn’t hesitate.
I don’t know why, instinct or watching too much ER with my grandparents, but I told everyone to scoot back. Mrs. Johnson came running in and that’s when I realized the main office was talking over the intercom. I hadn’t heard it. I was too busy staring in shock at Mr. Pennington—now lying on the floor motionless. Was he alive?
Mrs. Johnson barked into the air, “call an ambulance!” Another teacher, Mr. Carson (the hot seventh grade history teacher) came into the room and ushered us next door. That’s the last thing I remember until third hour.
“Ms. Moore?” (Ms. Moore was the same teacher who’d given me ‘In School Suspension’ for wearing too-short shorts to school one day)
“Can you please send Tiffany to the nurses’ office?”
When I reached the nurses’ office I knocked and was let inside. It was a small room and was filled to the brim with two paramedics, the school nurse, the principal, a weak looking Mr. Pennington sitting on the exam table, and now me.
After being stabilized, he’d refused to go to the hospital until he spoke with me. He thanked me. “For what?” I thought. He confided in me that he had epilepsy. It dawned on me that this was the reason he wore diapers. I felt sorry that I’d ever poked fun at him.
I never found out how he knew the events that took place after he fell; whether he was still cognizant or if someone told him, but he knew and was grateful.