Thursday, November 20, 2008

After School for Kids

Today was an interesting day. Not as interesting as the September morning in 2001 when we felt the school building
shudder from the flight hitting the Pentagon. Seeing the frightened look on parents double-parking and pulling their children from
school as if World War III had hit. Maybe it did. We just haven't labeled it that. Not yet.

Today was just an ordinarily interesting day. Thank JaysusAllahBooodah, not directly because of me. Lets see. Where do I start?
There was the student who came up to my desk holding her fingers as if she was doing a tight demonstration of Itsy-Bitsy Spider.
She had a second-hand furry, fluffy coat draped over her shoulders and eyes welling up like man-made lakes in Louisiana.
This wee one wanted to talk with me and see what I had to say about her evening last night. She led into the story starting with the backdrop of the weekend's events.

Her father is "on the lamb" and living underground from INS. She misses him and hasn't seen him in a long time. I really don't know if any offense is at hand aside from being an illegal alien and failing to show up for court hearings. He lives in Richmond, VA somewhere near where her sister is institutionalized for having a large failure to "play nicely with others" in her past. There are mental health issues mixed in with this. The family was barred from seeing the sister after traveling a few hours to see her. The patient is simply too ill to be in the company of others according to the doctors, or so it was presented in my student's simple ways.

In the shadow of this, INS shows up during the night, looking for Dad and takes the brother, who is also illegal and the only
financial means for the family. This little girl heard that the police were going to put cameras up to monitor traffic into their
apartment building. (Not sure if this is actual or a scare tactic.)

An update to this is today, the following morning, she told me that they are returning to El Salvador. She departs 1/1/09 with her mom and younger sibling. Her brother is being returned via the INS process. I am happy for her as this misery has ended. Who knows what fate she'll meet there, but the hammer hitting them on the head here in this town will stop and the new one will be buffered by her grandmother and family there.
Okay, so I settle this little one down and I am serving the next number, please.

My next short friend begins her tale by letting me know up-front this will be a long discussion, but that she really needs to talk. Okay. We go forward. She presents a sparsely drawn sketch of her home with her bedroom and the bathroom boldly identified. She walks me through it all and then, lowers the boom. "My dead aunt is in the bathroom." Hmmmmmm. Reason for alarm here, but I try to remain calm for her sake.

Then she tells me how her aunt died last spring and she was only 36. Fortunately, she told me only her spirit is in her home and not her entire self. Well, that is good news! After experiencing numerous dreams which include her aunt, she tells how she'll awaken, need to go to the bathroom and usually ends up walking down the hallway. Once in the bathroom, she usually finds her aunt waiting to visit. Her aunt is sweet to her and all, but this gal knows this method of catching up isn't normal. And, since her aunt is dead, being this up-close and personal ain't proper. I reassured her that her aunt loved her and that she wouldn't cause her any harm. Then, after a hug and a smile and rolling up the long sleeves
of her donated top, I pack her off to join her friend in the counselor's office.

Have I mentioned that these kids are nine and ten years old? What were you dealing with at that age?

Between the "ghost whisperer" story and when the special needs kids join my class, a large football player type kid wrestled a much smaller one without permission or willing participation in the next door class. I manage indoor recess, so his was lost and more tears ensued. Get out the industrial mop for this one. He is a big guy with a good heart.

One special ed kid arrives wearing his usual two hearing aids, which are in constant need of attention. In the early part of a test with the entire class, the hearing specialist comes in to repair his hearing device and starts talking him through the test and urging him to the answers. (In the old days, we called this cheating AND teachers didn't help you do it. She is a little codependent with this kid.) This is while they are seated at a desk gathering with 7 other kids. I manage to direct them to the hallway for the rest of their fun.

I won't bore you with all the details about another student from my teaching partner's room who went to the girls' room only to use her cell phone to call her mom at work. She leaves a message that she is tremendously upset and she wants her mother to pick her up NOW. The kid's phone loses signal reception, so the mom calls the office exceptionally (and justifiably) upset. So, this student needed to be brought back from their time in the library (where she was to have been) to account for the call as she assures us that everything is fine with her. My friend and I surmised that her best friend was absent today, so she didn't want to stay at school without her. There is more coming with this story, as she is from the more privlidged set. Again, I promise not to bore you, but perhaps I am too late. All in all, this little piece of sunshine inconvenienced the school secretary, three teachers and her parents. All because she felt funny since her friend wasn't there. Why can't she talk with the other kids? She is a little higher on the food chain, or so she thinks and so she is encouraged to think.

Now, do we need to recap that legislative juggernaut: No Child Left Behind. These are the highlights of my day and don't include the minimized events like scraped knees, loose teeth, flip-flops, short-sleeve shirts and no coats in 30 degree weather. Did I mention those who don't eat any breakfast? Have you ever tried to learn when you are hungry?

I don't have any pronounced answers. All I know is that our school is far from the worst. It is in an expensive area with what was once called "blue collar" areas surrounding and marbling through the community. I can't imagine what the really poor schools are like. The challenge to grasp student attention and make them lifelong learners must be so dramatically overwhelming or just put to the curb. It boggles my mind and makes me wish the economy was better for many reasons. Maybe these kids would have a different reality. Maybe I'd look for another job. It is hard to watch at close range when no substantial answers to any of these issues are easily found.

Every immigrant population has its hard knocks when they are assimilating. That was true for my ancestors and I would guess it holds for any one's family who has read this far. Life ain't easy. Be courteous when you can. Reach out if you are able.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Remember: that last one isn't my original thought. It is from some guy living in a burning bush on a mountain top. But that was on a planet far, far away. Go figure.


  1. I feel your pain! Unfortunately, the problems don't get any smaller when these kids hit their teen years. An open ear, an open mind and an open heart are sometimes all we can offer. You're absolutely right that we have to reach out when we are able!

  2. Thanks Scoop. You ought to look into job with the Post. If I don't talk to you next week, have a safe, happy, wonderful Thanksgiving.

  3. Red,

    Good to hear from you. Remember this day, as it's one of the few days I will praise you.

    Back when we were Techplan and you decided that teaching was going to be your next adventure in life; that was the best decision you made. Unfortunately there are no rich prizes or rewards.......but you cant put a price on taking care of little ones and give them proper education and a shoulder to cry and listen to. Its comforting to know that kids in poor situations have you to talk to and to make them smile at least a few hours a day away from their home situations. Your a good person who has alot to share to little ones.....I only hope Isabella has a teacher like you in her growing up days.

    Keep your spirits up

  4. When I was 10, the only thing I had to put up with was my sister and her crazy friend. They would come home to sleep over night and stick me in the middle of the bed.

  5. The only thing I had to deal with when I was 10 was my sister and her crazy friend. When she would stay overnight, we all had to share a bed and I got stuck in the middle.

  6. Irene,

    Scoop read your message and wonders if she should engage the services of an attorney based on this level of slander.