This year I am teaching all honors and gifted classes. So I have a student in one of my gifted classes who has (undiagnosed I think) Aspergers Syndrome. If you've never heard of Aspergers, it's a form of Autism in which the individual is very high functioning. An ordinary encounter may give no other indication that something is amiss except that the person seems odd. Often (in my experience) these kids are quite smart intellectually but lack social skills. They often do not have an awareness of personal space and tend to stand way too close while talking to you. They may also want to share information with you about things most people really wouldn't care about and usually don't have a lot of friends. So you get the idea - smart but socially lacking.
This particular student that I have this year seems rather normal until she starts talking. She often tells me things about the city of Boston or Judaism. She raises her hand in the middle of discussions about war or the Populist movement to spout off a fact about the Red Sox. She is also a hockey fan and likes to raise her hand during class to show me a picture of a hockey player she has on her binder. She wears a jersey of a player whose unfortunate name is Semin, which most teenagers wouldn't be caught dead in. But, alas she just doesn't get it (or may not care). She's not a constant disruption by any means, but in those moments I struggle to let her know that it's not the right time without coming across as intolerant or mean.
Well, one day I am standing outside of my classroom door as her class is leaving for lunch (they leave and come back during my class). She stops on her way out the door and looks at me with a slight smile, as if she knows something I don't. The exchange goes something like this,
Child: "Mrs. Beck, do you think I'm an alien?"
Me: (Blink. Blink. Blink.) "Um, well, I hadn't thought about it. But I guess I do now."
And off to lunch she went. The end.