Posts In Category In School
Attention, students! The walkout scheduled for noon has been rescheduled for 4:15. Please update your Instagrams, Facebooks, and Snapchats! If you do it, we’ll catch you!
Comments from Students in the Hall at 11:52:
- Were you going to walk out?
- Who was going to walk out?
- Was ______ going to walk out?
- Why didn’t anyone tell me?
Red Ribbon Week began back in the 80s with the “Just Say ‘No’ to Drugs” campaign. PTA sponsors the themes and week. Students learn the dangerous effects of drugs and wear silly outfits to silly themes like “Tie One On for Drugs” where everyone wore a necktie.
I had just finished the dangers of marijuana PowerPoint when I turned to face my class. This was the point I always dreaded.
“Does anyone have any questions?”
A tall girl in the second row shyly raised her hand, then quickly jerked it down, before raising it again with more confidence.
I motioned to her to ask away.
“I’ve heard of the word before but what is marijuana?”
There is such innocence in that question and I rejoice that I have a thirteen-year old who doesn’t know what marijuana is.
“I need to see you, please.”
I hesitate. I’m passing out tests. Couldn’t the assistant principal come by later?
He motions, again.
I ask the students to sharpen their pencils while I go to the door.
“I need you to read this.”
He hands me a paper. At the top are the words “Pending Alternative Education Placement.” Underneath is the explanation: Weapons – Possession.
My heart sinks and breaks.
Two days ago, I heard from this same student, “Miss. I’m new to your class.Where do I sit?”
I motioned him over to the only empty seat in the classroom. My room is stuffed with 32 desks. He’s just filled the last seat.
Fortunately, the day’s assignment was a prewrite. As I look over his work, I realize he’s a pretty good writer. He’s got good ideas although atrocious spelling.
He was absent yesterday.
Word all over the teacher’s lounge at lunch was that a student had to be taken down by the officers. Someone reported that a 6th grader had spotted an unknown student being hauled off in handcuffs into a police car.
I think, now, I know who that student was. I wish I didn’t.
There was much muttering in the halls of the school. Teachers gathered in small groups to discuss the latest mandate from the Powers-that-Be. Teachers were not happy.
Excerpt from the E-mail Received in April 2013
It is highly and strongly recommended that all language art teachers in the district attend the National Writing Project two-week workshop in July. The workshop is from 8AM to 4PM Monday-Friday. Failure to attend any portion of the workshop will result in loss of credit.
Our building’s teachers’ union representative was overwhelmed by questions.
- Can the district force us to give up two weeks of our summer vacation without compensation? (compensation = $$$)
- If we can’t attend, could we be fired? (Texas is a Right-to-Work state; firing is always an option.)
- What about doctors’ appointments? (Teachers traditionally save routine physicals for the summer.)
- What about summer school and other part-time jobs teachers take on in order to avert economic disasters? (Summer school would end the week before the workshop began.)
One of my peers is due the second week of training. Surely, childbirth would be an adequate excuse not to attend.
Another comrade has scheduled her honeymoon for those two weeks (a cruise through the Mediterranean). The non-refundable tickets had been purchased over Christmas break.
After the furor died down, I was left with one question: What in the heck is the National Writing Project?
“We’ll be meeting with Steven’s parents this afternoon after school. If you’re available, his parents would like to meet with all the teachers.”
I opened up Steven’s composition notebook to check the composition he’d written this afternoon. In 50 minutes, he’d managed to write 23 words. I responded “will attend”.
The other teachers were already there: both his math teachers, his band teacher, and the science teacher. The math teacher told us that she’d called Steven’s parents after she’d seen a recent test. Scrawled across the page were the letters IDK, I don’t know. The science teacher opened Steven’s science notebook and was relieved to point out that Steven was doing all his science work. The band teacher didn’t have a notebook but was happy to report that Steven was doing well with the flute.
Steven’s parents arrived with Steven in tow. His mother was in charge. She began by apologizing for not attending Meet the Teacher night but was grateful we’d all taken the time to meet with them on a Friday afternoon.
She then let us know that she’d been having problems with Steven’s aggression recently. “He’s so angry” was repeated throughout the meeting. She continued by letting us know that Steven has had aggression problems ever since his last concussion.
His last concussion?
“He’s had four,” his mother informed us. “Two of them were severe enough that he had seizures. One was bad enough that he ended up in a temporary coma.”
I think we were all wondering how they happened. Steven is only 12!
“The last one happened in February 2012.”
Steven’s father nodded in agreement.
“It happened while he was playing a pick-up game of football. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and hit his head on the sidewalk. He had seizures for a while but the MRI says he’s okay now. But he’s been angry ever since.
“The one before that happened when he slipped in a swimming pool. It was just temporary. He had a headache for a couple of days, that’s all. He was nine.
“The one before that happened when he was….” She counted back on her fingers before continuing, “Seven. He slipped in the bathtub but was fine.”
I looked back at Steven’s notebook as I reflected. Steven is a very energetic child, hyperactive even. Surely all these concussions were enough to warrant a 504.
“The first concussion,” she took a deep breath before continuing, “happened when he was five. Steven was raped when he was five. During the attack, he hit his head. He was unconscious so he doesn’t remember much.”
Steven nodded silently as tears slid down his cheeks.
“It was his sister,” his mother continued. “She was eight. Steven was five.”
She stopped to stroke Steven’s head and wipe away a tear.
Steven wiped his face on his sleeve.
“His sister was taken away. She’s been living in a halfway house and receiving therapy for the last six years.”
She took another breath. Steven’s father wrapped his arm around his wife.
“She came home this week. She came home yesterday. Last night, she tried to kill Steven. She was choking him. We called the people and they took her away.”
Steven was crying silently. His mom continued to stroke his hair.
“They’re bringing her back next week. She needs to be with her family, they say. She needs to be socialized before she’s an adult. She’s 15 now.”
Steven turned his back on us.
I looked at the table as I realized we were way over our heads. Steven needs a counselor. ‘Of course, he wrote IDK on his math test. He has more important problems going on right now,’ I thought.
His mother looked at us.
“But it’s no excuse. He needs to focus on his schoolwork. It’s his future.”
We talked with the parents and Steven for another 30 minutes. We made plans. We tried to figure out ways we could work to help Steven.
And my heart breaks every time I think of what Steven has gone through and what he will continue to undergo. No one deserves the kind of life he’s had. What can I do to help him?