Friday, January 26, 2007

I'm really, really glad its Friday.

I work in a school that has a capacity of 2000 students and an enrollement of around 2250, ranging in ages from 13 to 16. In this school the classes are capped at 30, but most have more than that. There are 4 counselors, 4 social workers, 2 nurses, and 2 case workers.

So, some teachers double as social workers, nurses, etc...

Monday. One of the kids in my more difficult class told another teacher to "shut up and f&*K off". This is the kind of thing that can distract an entire class for an hour after it happens. As this is her 35th office referral, she's going to be suspended for 5 days. During final exams in December, she went to the bathroom and got stoned and was then suspended and had the police called on her. She's been published in the newspaper for "minor in consumption of alcohol". She is, by the way, brilliant, with a commanding presence that attracts many followers. Her current grade point average is 0. What a waste.
There was a huge fight during lunch today. Students tell me it was "awesome."

Tuesday. This was actually a fairly routine day in terms of classes. After school, I'm the club sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance at our school. At our meeting, I found out that a student who'd stopped coming had promised her parents she would try to be straight. They grounded (restricted) her until she agreed not to be a lesbian any more. Another one told me his parents had canceled his birthday until he would agree not to be gay anymore.

Wednesday. A student came in to let me know that another student had been threatening suicide. A social work referral was made, and it turns out the second student stopped taking her antipsychotic meds and didn't tell anyone, and is now under observation. I got a new student whose parents are currently going through a divorce and are fighting over her for custody, making her decide which one she wants to live with. She just sits and stares around her, lost in a class that already had 33 students in it.
I was also informed today that yet another student of mine who'd been absent for three weeks has been sent to an inpatient psychiatric hospital in another city.

Thursday. This kid I called Child Protective Services about last week came in positively beaming. He's in my honors class, and had told me over the last couple of weeks about being increasingly verbally harassed and physically threatened at home. His father, after having been contacted by the social worker at our school, bought him some clothes at Goodwill and then some shampoo. The kid was ecstatic because he'd gotten shampoo. SHAMPOO. "Look how clean my hair is!" he kept saying, and running his fingers through it.

It never occured to me to ask if he had the basic necessities of hygene at home. I'd been giving the little hotel shampoos to our nurses from when we travel to our triathlons and other races, because the nurses told me that some students' parents won't buy them shampoo or soap, but I'd never actually seen it in my classes.

I got another new student; this one has parents going through a divorce. This seems to be the most common age for this. Both parents are so busy dealing with their own pain that nobody was checking to see if she was in school, and she missed 20 days last quarter alone.

I was informed that, because I'm the faculty sponsor of the GSA, students who have issues in that regard tend to be placed with me. Fine, but don't complain to me about grades and standardized test scores, okay? I mean, who cares what your grades are when you're busy hoping that none of your friends find out that your Mother has just left your Dad for another woman?

It's just that I'd like to either teach or be a school counselor. I've had a school counselor's license for three years, and have applied for eight positions in my district. It's apparently easier to hire a school counselor than to replace a veteran teacher.

Another student, who has been here for eight weeks, is moving again. This will be his third move during his 8th-grade year. I'm pretty sure he's in a gang. Some of the girls are upset because he's leaving. They tell me I'm insensitive because even though they are clearly upset about this, and I want them to do their work. What I really want is for them to be upset about their grades, not some banger whom they've known for less than 2 months.

Friday. In my more difficult class, the girl with the highest grade average - who aspires to be a boxer and trains daily toward this end - got in a fight during lunch. She will be suspended for five days. She'll miss five days of school. I was hoping to get her into some advanced classes next year. Now I don't know. At least her father is proud that she got the best of the fight; that's something, right?
The security guards told me there has been at least one major fight every single day this week.

Sometimes I get so tired of working here, and I think about leaving, but then I have moments. This week, the moment was a kid who was thrilled at having clean hair. That's enough to give me a smile and get me through the next couple of weeks.

In a few minutes, I'll pack up and leave and go pick up my normal, sort of a pain in the ass teenager from track practice. I'm going to give him a hug, which he'll probably squirm away from.

I'll avoid letting him know how lucky he is to be "normal," because, if I did, Mini-baboo would recite a litany of complaints about how much he suffers, because HE has CHORES, a curfew, does his own laundry, doesn't have a cell phone yet, and his parents are always in his business. Oh, the humanity!

...

9 comments:

  1. My goodness. I'm worn out just reading that! Hang in there!! Can we send shampoo or something??

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  2. Actually, you know what - if you get those little bottles of shampoo and soaps when you travel, drop them off at your nearest middle school. You could call first and talk to the nurses and/or social workers to find out who would want them.

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  3. Thank you for being there for the kids. My teens are in a school of 2000 also and it's very scary. I thank God there are people like you that care and hang in there for them. You are a saint.

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  4. The state of the youth in this country is depressing. Thank you for looking out for those you can. You are a blessing.

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  5. That's a tough week. I'm sure you are not appreciated nearly enough.

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  6. OMG! I had no idea -- people are just f*&ked up!

    Thanks for this - I no longer feel like the terrible mother my children sometimes tell me I am...(they're cute that way)

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  7. May I just add to what the others said?

    Kudos to the student who recognized the very real danger of suicidal thoughts and brought the problem to a caring and capable adult in a position to intervene.

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  8. My condolences on the APS system--and an excellent reason why I sent my son to a private school here in Albuquerque.
    All the tea in China won't fix public schools unless and until they go to some of the private school policies:
    1. Hard and fast grading/failing
    policies.
    2. Making parents accountable for their little darlings bad behavior/performance -- "in trouble, Mom/Dad has to show up and respond to a teacher/police officer in person".
    When parents are forced to be invested in their child's life and education -- the kids will learn and the teachers can teach. Failing that -- then the good kids (i.e. usually the ones with caring parents) will come out well-educated only in spite of having to put up with the troublemakers.

    My heart goes out to the poor kids without basic hygiene, but I also wonder how much of that is simple priorities or caring from their parents. What does the cheapest shampoo cost anyway? I'd think one should reasonably ask that social services find out what the living conditions/priorities are in that household. If one is down to no shampoo -- then logically they must/should be down to only Ramen noodles and cereal; and living in a squalid rental. I frankly doubt that is what we are talking about.

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  9. Actually, this isn't APS. It's RRPS. Hard fast grading policies won't fix schools. You're right about parental involvement, though. However, there's nothing we can do to MAKE them be involved. The answer is to centralize social services in the schools, so that kids can get the services they need where they tend to be.

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