There Will Be Rum

Today was a pisser.  No, really.

Yesterday, I received a new student.  Well, new to me.  He came from the class next door where for the first 10 days of school, he wreaked havoc, screaming “No!” at his teacher and often running out of the room and rampaging around campus.

It was decided by the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, that it was the combination of an inexperienced teacher and other strong personalities in the class that made it wise to move him to a new classroom.  When the AP told me about it the day before the move, she admitted to me that he’d run away from her office before she’d sent him home for the day.  I said that I didn’t know what I could for him do if administration clearly couldn’t control him either.

But Little Hellraiser E1’d in my room yesterday.  It wasn’t exactly smooth but it was tolerable.  Fast-forward to today.  He started out fine, adhering to our ‘First Things First’ tasks, completing his Morning Work and even reading for a few minutes.

But it was during my iii block about 15 minutes into the instructional day that he began to go downhill.  The schedule is so tight and I was trying to get the iii lesson done but I had to keep stopping to redirect my new friend.  I finally had him sit beside me while I finished the lesson.

Following iii, we began our Morning Meeting.  When he refused to join the rest of the class on the carpet, I chose to continue with what we were doing and put him on ‘Ignore’ as he roamed around the room.  That’s when the shit hit the fan.  As we continued to ignore him, he began to escalate his behavior, eventually scooting a 6′ tall rack of journals toward the center of the room and pushing it over onto the carpet, causing kids to scramble out of the way.

Before we could do anything else, he’d grabbed a chair, carried it toward a cluster of kids cowering by the wall, and proceeded to throw the chair at the kids.  (All of this I have on video on my phone.)  I pushed the call button and told them a student was throwing chairs while I had the kids line up at the door.  We then went out onto the sidewalk and waited for the BIC to come.

While we were outside the room, he absolutely trashed my classroom.  Mind you, he wasn’t screaming, he wasn’t angry, he was simply destroying everything in sight.  When the BIC arrived, he and the AP had the kid clean up his mess while I took the rest of the class to the playground.  The photos are from after it was ‘cleaned up’.

Little Hellraiser was apparently sent home for the rest of the day.  According to the Principal, whom I saw later, he won’t be back tomorrow, either.  I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t want him back in my room.  The truth is, he poses a danger to other students, both physically and academically.  I can’t do my job properly if I’m constantly worried he’s going to hurt someone.

And another fact:  I am a highly qualified professional educator.  I’m hell at teaching kids to read and to write and to perform first grade mathematical functions.  I am NOT a psychiatric nurse.  I am NOT a social worker.  I am NOT trained in dealing with mentally disturbed children.  And it’s not what I want to do with my life.  I can go through the union to refuse to have the kid in my class.  I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

wpid-20150902_165350-1.jpgThis is happening tonight.

I’m not Miss Beadle.

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So I’ve Noticed

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Kids are all different.  Some are sweet, some are smart, some are cute, some are adventurous.

I’m a fan of curious kids, those who genuinely want to know more.  About everything.  Often they are not the most well-behaved.  But that’s okay.

I’ve had kids who were too good for their own good.  Do you know the ones I mean?  I’ve found myself silently urging them to bust out and do something outrageous, just for kicks. It’s alright.  The world doesn’t end if you get into a little trouble now and then.

Then there are the un-lovely kids.  The ones who fight you every step of the way.  The ones who seem to believe their mission in life to to make your life miserable.  The ones you really don’t like, and you count the days until they’re someone else’s problem.

And they are the ones who need the most love.

There’s always a reason for the way they are.  I want to be the kind of teacher who keeps that in mind.  I don’t always succeed.  But hopefully, I win more than I lose.  It’s good to know that every day is a brand new chance.

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Well That’s One Way to Do It

My girl Witty Colleague had a day on Friday.  You know the kind.  The kind where Murphy’s Law prevails.

It ended with a bang, too.  It seems that one of her sweet little munchkins took exception to having his color changed to Yellow in his agenda.  You see, we use a color system to communicate with parents on a daily basis regarding the behavior of their children.  Green indicates a Good day.  Some teachers, Witty included, utilize a system whereby a kid can actually move up from Good to Great.  The opposite is also true; if your day is less than stellar, you can move down to Yellow, Orange, Blue, or even (duh-duh-DUH) Red.

At any rate, I don’t really know what infraction led to such a traumatic life event for poor little dude, but I knew things were not going well when I saw him being walked down the sidewalk, kicking and screaming, by our Behavioral Intervention Specialist.  He’s great at what he does.  He’s like the kid whisperer, deescalating tense situations.  I like to refer to him as The Enforcer.  You can just hear the song, can’t you?

When you have a kid

And he’s flipping out

Who you gonna call?

The Enforcer!

I saw Witty after school.  She reported to me the story of how I came to see little dude being escorted away from her room.  He’d received Yellow in his agenda, which, all things considered, isn’t really that bad.  I mean, you can’t expect to hit it out of the park every day.  And, every day is a brand new day.  So, lighten up, Buttercup.

But then I heard the cherry on top.  According to Witty, after she marked his color Yellow, little dude proceeded to tear out the offending page and eat it.

He freakin’ ate the page. 

Just when you thought you’d heard everything…

More Thoughts on ‘So This Happened Today’

This post generated a bit of conversation and some considered opinions were expressed.  I feel compelled to flesh out the situation a bit more.  While I didn’t know the little dudes involved in this specific incident, I’ve been doing this a while and I have some guesses about the anger displayed.   

First, a little data.  What are we educators without our data?  As mentioned in the About section of this blog, I teach at a K-5 Title I school.  This designation is given to a school wherein at least 40% of its population is from low-income families, as defined by the U.S. Census.  The designation comes with some funding and lots of mandates, which is not my focus right now.

Our school has over 700 students.  In addition to our ‘regular’ classrooms, we have several EBD classes, that is, Emotional Behavioral Disorder.  We have kids who wear ankle monitors mandated by the courts (remember, this is K-5).   According to the most recent statistics from the state Department of Education website, 94% of students at our school come from low-income families.  It also says that 94% of our students are considered minorities.  There are studies showing that statistically, these students begin kindergarten two years behind their counterparts at more affluent schools.  I heard an employee at our school remark once that she didn’t teach her child to write her name, her letters, or her numbers.  “That’s the teacher’s job,” she commented.

Here’s what the data doesn’t show.  Many of our students come from homes where violence, crime, neglect, addiction, and abuse are the norm.   There are kids in every classroom who have significant adults in their lives who are incarcerated for violent crimes.  I once had a student whose older brother was in prison for murder.  He’d killed their father.  There are kids in every classroom who know someone who died violently.  Drive-by and revenge shootings are commonplace in the neighborhoods where these babies have to go home every afternoon.  The parents who care don’t allow the kids to play outside. 

Then there are the parent who don’t care.  It’s business as usual for parents to give false phone numbers to the school.  They don’t want to hear from the teachers or administrators.  Which is all well and good until you have a kid in the clinic who needs to be transported to the hospital and you can’t get in touch with a parent.  Some parents seem to fear that their children will do better than they did, and these parents actually give their kids a hard time about doing homework or behaving in school.  You can’t make that up.

Our students worry about things that would never cross the mind of the average kid in a ‘white-bread’ school.  For example, I read aloud a Junie B. Jones story where she got locked in the school and called 911.  One of my friends observed, “She’s gonna go into foster care,” shaking her head sadly. 

Another kid was worried that mom was going to go to jail for leaving her and her siblings home alone.  Why was she worried about that?  Because that’s what the cops threatened last time they were called out to the home. 

I have found myself normalizing unacceptable situations.  “You’re going to out of town to visit your dad in prison?  Awesome!”  “Your daddy’s dead?  I’m so sorry.  Let’s try to work on our math now.”

So they come to us tired.  When dad and his homies are up all night with their dog-fighting, it’s hard to sleep.  They come to us hungry.  Last year, one little girl wrote very matter-of-factly in her journal that over the weekend they’d eaten popcorn and watermelon because “we didn’t have any food.”  We feed every kid free breakfast and most kids free lunch every school day, but there are those pesky Saturdays and Sundays.  Every so often we send home a bag of food with each kid, provided by some ‘feed kids’ charity. 

And they come to us angry, emulating behavior they see modeled by the grown-ups in their world.  Several years ago, an intermediate student began organizing fights for money.  She’d arrange fights, sell tickets, and take bets on who would win.  Enterprising and exceedingly scary, all at the same time.  A bit of insight into the culture tells us that power is the ultimate necessity.  Vengeance must be had or one is considered weak.  I once removed a sharp kitchen knife from a first grader.  “I wasn’t really going to use it,” he told me. 

So when little headbanger assumed that someone was looking at him wrong, he flew into a rage.  I’d be hard-put to place the blame on the teacher or the school culture for his outburst.  He came to us like an angry knot.  Somehow, we’re supposed to unravel him. 

It’s a complex problem to which there is no simple answer.  To propose otherwise is both elitist and naive.  I’m not Miss Beadle.