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You Can’t Make This Up

February 2, 2012
Teaching New Orleans

During a discussion on tornadoes, tsunamis, and hurricanes: A tsunami is cause by underwater violence and it makes the water come on land.

After school today, I overheard the Dean of Students say to himself, “You. Can’t. Make. This. Up.”

Of note:

One of my students who has full on conversations with imaginary friends during class stood up, walked to the door and announced, “I have to make a bowel movement,” and he promptly walked out of my classroom.

After 5 days of studying quotes, one of my girls announced that we need a “quotextion mark” at the end of the sentence. That’s the love child of a quote and an exclamation mark.

My co-teacher convinced several of our students that his hands are all cut up because had to rescue Chia Obama from the jaws of an alligator that broke into our classroom. Mouths drop open, “Fo’ realz?” It was a bike accident, but they’re none the wiser.

One girl told me, as we were discussing this article, that she saw her first murder before Katrina. She was 8. She saw her second after that. The rest of the kids chimed in when they had seen their first killing. One student volunteered that his father had killed someone.

Same class: another student reasoned that if she can’t afford to have an abortion, she should just have the baby. Because it’s free to have a baby.

Out of a conversation with 6 students, 3 of them said they have no one to tell when they do something good, and no one to fear when they get in trouble.

This student announced in his journal yesterday that his mother, a 29-year-old who has been in jail awaiting trial since April, was finally sentenced to 10 years in prison. He tells me I shouldn’t be sad for him, and that he should know how to handle it. His father is on death row for murder in Oklahoma. My student turned 15 on Sunday, the oldest of 4 kids.

Today, in a classroom on the other side of the building, a female student bashed a male student over the head with a glass picture frame. That’s after she threw a tape dispenser at him. She’s in jail now.

We talk about the things that happen here like it’s just another day. I had a burrito for lunch. My student went to jail. I need a nap. I saw a murder when I was 8. What world are we living in?

I got so frustrated this morning that I had to leave my classroom, have my principal cover me, and hide in the teacher’s lounge and cry. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why I want them to learn so much more than they want to learn. And then I thought of this one kid who stares at me so intensely every day, soaking up every word of instruction and applying it in his work. This same student brought a gun to school back in August. And now? He has grown by leaps and bounds, thirsty for the education that has eluded him thus far. My hiding behind a row of appliances in the teacher’s lounge isn’t helping anyone but me. I wiped off my smeared mascara, smiled several times in the mirror, and waded back into the water.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Amie williams permalink
    February 2, 2012 8:07 pm

    Carry on warrior. Mike and Andie told us you were teaching not too long ago. Keep up the good work, I’ll be praying for you.

  2. Alli permalink
    February 2, 2012 9:41 pm

    It sounds like you stay strong for your students. It’s okay to know when to cry.

  3. February 2, 2012 11:39 pm

    Hang in there. My student is in jail right now, 17 years old, charged with drug possession. The other day he had joined the track team, and I helped him register for his first email address. He had sent me the first thank you note I ever received from a HS student for that. I just did a little research and learned that in Texas, 17 year olds are automatically charged as adults. He has been sitting in the county jail for 2 nights because he is poor and his family probably can’t come up with the bond money. He still has two books checked out from me.He loves to read. I had told him a couple weeks ago that he had to start putting action behind his promises and he didn’t cut a class after that. I also have tons of pregnant students. Another one of the students I work closely with is 17 and his girlfriend is having a baby in 2 weeks. He is a gifted writer who is now putting his college plans on hold, and his grades are going downhill. So tonite I cried for my kid in jail, and tomorrow I’ll put on a brave face and be normal again. No wonder teachers burn out. When I worked in a rich suburban school the girls got abortions and the kids got bailed out by their lawyer parents and had their cases thrown out.

  4. February 3, 2012 7:36 am

    Have you ever thought of compiling these stories and making it into a book? Compelling, sad, hilarious, hopeful, tragic. I’d read it. So would many others I think.

  5. February 3, 2012 5:32 pm

    ugh. heavy heavy heavy.
    you are in the trenches that’s for sure.
    “thirsty for the education that has eluded him thus far” – amazing.

  6. February 3, 2012 5:33 pm

    p.s. do you think your chia obama can telepathically share these words with the Real Obama????

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