Sunday, April 23, 2006

Making Peace

After stewing over the entire fight thing and NOT wanting to see JJ for a while I decided to make peace. After all I am the adult, or at least I like to think that I am. Last week we were involved in federally mandated state testing, so the schedule was bizarre to say the least.

Thursday I had a great lesson planned one of my favorite short stories. I had also rearranged all the desks and was putting everyone in alphabetical order. JJ proceeded to make comments about how put upon he was. He would be the last student seated blah, blah, blah. Seats were assigned, he didn't like his and make noise about it.

I asked him to step into the hallway so that I could speak to him. He was still talking trash (a new move for him) he thought I didn't treat him fairly. I told him he was right. I hadn't counted him tardy many times, I should have. I did not write him up for disciplinary action when he was not in his seat or distracting others. I reminded him of everything I could remember doing for him that was above and beyond the call. I told him that would stop and I would treat him like everyone else.

I was mad and there was no question about it. He had two options to return to the class and behave or to see the counselor and transfer. I then returned to class, left him in the hallway and taught my lesson. The rest of us had fun. It's a story I read every year and every year they love it! About 10 minutes before class ended JJ walked back in, sat down and was quiet.

I asked JJ to stay after class, we shook hands and hugged. I was glad to see the real JJ return. He had some attitude on Friday, but basically the student I have enjoyed all year has returned and the alien that was masquerading in his body is gone, I hope.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Fight

There was a fight at school yesterday. One boy made comments about another's apparel, and then the second boy retaliated with a name. It happened on school property, both boys were disciplined, and it destroyed one of my classes today.

I don't teach either of the fighters. I don't know either of them very well, although I can identify one of the boys. He has a beautiful smile and a chip on his shoulder. My before lunch class came in agitated and before I could take attendance one angry girl, "Penny", left the classroom to be quietly angry in the hallway. I went out to speak to her and while I was there for those few moments, it happened.

A male student "JJ" was out of his seat and doing his usual singing and dancing and playing around. It's a daily occurrence and since he usually settles down in a few moments, I haven't made a big deal out of it. It can be annoying, but it's not worth the hassle of alienating a bright kid with a lot of potential. "Z" a female student was tired of JJ's behavior and asked him to stop. He didn't she asked him again, he still didn't. Finally she quietly said "I'd like to hurt him". Some one told JJ, Z had said she'd like to kill him. That's when it hit the fan.

JJ demanded that I do something about the threat on his life. JJ has played football and is not a small young man. Z is a petite young lady. My initial feeling was and still is she said what she said out of frustration. I'll confess I've said those words myself when frustrated. I listened and made a decision that Z posed no threat to JJ and there was no real problem. I was wrong. Ever been wrong? I was wrong. JJ would not let the situation go. Z apologized repeatedly and JJ wasn't accepting of that. He informed me I always favored the girls. At that point Kay who is constantly talking told him that I sure got onto her case, and if she had said those words she would be sitting in the principal's office .

Let me tell you about Kay, not an A student, but could pull B's if she did her work and turned in her assignments. She talks, a lot. She talks loudly, distracts other students and keeps them from doing their work. She giggles and flirts and can drive you up the wall. She is not easy to ignore. I probably do get on her a bit more, she's much easier to see and hear with her very animated conversations and giggles.

While this was going on Walter loudly declares that he has been stabbed, with a pen, by the girl who sits behind him. Walter is another "active" student. Why do I always get the active ones just before lunch? I check his hand I see a dot of ink. That is it, a dot of ink, no swelling, no no blood, nothing to make me believe he has been stabbed. I have Walter sitting in the front and center of the room at his parent's request. It helps him to focus. He's a good kid from a nice family, but today I have become unfairness personified.

Meanwhile, Penny is in the hall writing about her emotions. She wanted to scream I suggested she write that way she could scream, and not disturb anyone. JJ is on a tirade about how unfair I am as a teacher, Z, has begun to cry, Kay is continuing with the nonstop diatribe, Walter is pissed I don't call on him as he has his hand raise, for once, but has continued to talk. I am about to lose it.

This is the class period when I don't really have the option of calling in our Director of Disciplinary Action as he is trying to maintain control of the lunch room, and sending a kid to him during lunch is a treat for the kid. I feel manipulated.

I rarely write up kids for disciplinary action. I feel that I should be able to handle the majority of what comes up. Usually as a class we talk things through and deal with situations. That didn't happened today.

Last semester JJ got very mad at a flippant comment made by another student. We went in the hall to talk while the kids worked. I listened and suggested that perhaps the other student had seen it differently from his vantage point. JJ thought that might be possible. He was upset so I sent him to the restroom to regain composure. I called other student into the hallway and filled him on the background info. JJ returned the two talked and everything was fine.

Today JJ would not look at Z as she apologized for about the 5th or 6th time. He would not look at me, because I was "guilty". I finally figured out that it had not been a great morning for JJ, so I suggested that perhaps because of those frustrations he was being unreasonable. Nope he wasn't buying into that. He was the victim, he would tell his mamma and she would be after me, because he was her baby.

I'm not afraid of the mamma, but I knew the moment he played the mamma card winning this situation was his goal. I'll discuss the situation with the mamma, and I'll bet she is not happy with JJ. I'm trying to go back and forth between the hallway and my classroom, and then Raj comes out of the room and he wants to leave. It was an anarchy moment. My husband is a proponent of anarchy, but I am not a proponent of anarchy, so I struggled to regain my control and composure as I finished the class time. Once everyone was back in the classroom I snarled at all of them to write about this situation, and then as if angels had been present, mercifully the bells rang to dismiss class. Students turned in their writing to me face down along with the other assignment that had been done. Then there had to be one more thing tattle tale told on gum chewing girl. I gathered up papers and took Z to the counselor's office and asked the principal to step in the room with us, while the story was retold. I cried, Z cried, the principal and the counselor both hugged Z, sent for her lunch and let her call her mom. I went to my room to bring back what the students had written to give to the councilor, I kept a copy for myself. Then I went to my room closed the door and played mindless games instead of eating lunch.

Luckily I have a planning time after lunch, I finished the day and was emotionally exhausted. The counselor said I handled the situation will. I don't feel like I did. I'm hoping that tempers will cool over the weekend.

I haven't mentioned race at all, and I won't. Race should not change the story in any way.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Loss of One of My Kids

I attended the visitation of the deceased student. It was hard. There were so many people there. I waited outside the funeral home in a long line for about 40 minutes before getting in the building. Once inside I saw many of my former colleagues and students. We mourned together at the loss of this young man. We hugged and cried and talked. I was able to extend my condolences to his parents, not only from me, but also on behalf of a teacher who has left the area. As hard as it was I felt I had to go.

I took the day of the funeral off. I knew I would not be in any shape to attend to my classes let alone teach that day. So many of his classmates attend the funeral. The church was packed and many people stood outside for the entire service. About 2/3 of the class that I had taught was there. They wanted to be together afterwards and so it was agreed we would meet at my house after the grave side service. I thought only one or two would really come, but almost all did.

This was a special group of students, the class that I taught when 9/11 happened. We held hands and prayed together. We talked, hugged, shared stories and memories. We in our own way celebrated this young man's life. He had such a wonderful sense of humor, how he would have enjoyed it, if only he had been there.

Getting to see so many of my former students helped me. I hope it helped them as well. They will graduate in a few weeks and be off with the rest of their lives. Prom is coming up, I hope they all make good choices and that we don't go through this again. I wish them all well. I am grateful they humored me and spent some time with me, and let me spend time with them.

I'll say it again. They are the best group of kids I have ever worked with. They still are.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bad News

Today was a first for me. I received via email information that a former student had committed suicide. I doubt that anybody knew that I had taught the young man. He was my student for three years when I taught at a private school. His class was the best group of students I have ever worked with.

I read the email as my 2nd period class came in. I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. They know what to do, so they just started with the bell work. I started crying and some one noticed. They asked me if I was alright. The answer was no.

I've never lost a student to suicide before. I cannot imagine how much this young man must have been hurting. Sadly a couple of years ago his older brother died in a car crash. As I write I am numb, and I write because it keeps me from crying.

I want to shout why!? I want the world to stop for a moment. This is the second death of a young person in three weeks that I have known. It hurts. The first one was the daughter of a life long friend and now this one. Somehow the car accident is easier to deal with.