27thSeptember

Crazy Cat!

The cat is running back and forth like she’s being chased by a bat out of Hell.  She’s actually chasing her tail (or being chased by her tail).  Dogs do that but I’ve never seen a cat fall for it.  Crazy cat.  I think she misses Steven.  This is about the time I’d be getting him up and he’d be petting and feeding her. 

I called in sick this morning.  Took me an hour to go online and request a sub, write up detailed lesson plans for said sub, publish new rosters and attach them to the request, call the school and leave a message for the secretary (along with another copy of my student rosters and detailed lesson plans), call and let DIL #1 know that I’m not taking Holly to school today and arrange for her to take her as well as bring her home along with Jake.  I have a really difficult group of students this trimester and I wouldn’t dare leave a sub with less than adequate plans.  I have probably a half dozen “challenging” students each period and can’t take a deep breath from the start of the day until it’s over.  Probably would have been just as easy to go on in but I had stomach cramps and diarrhea most of the night and that’s NOT something to deal with when you’re trapped in a room with 30 high school students.  It takes an act of God to even find time to go to the restroom on my planning period.

I know I’ve been absent.  It doesn’t take much to totally throw me off track these days.  The deal with Jake really upset me and got me down.  In answer to some of the comments from my last post…my friends and colleagues were very supportive.  Jake’s teachers sent him letters and post cards and his teachers from last year and this year sent letters of support to the administration as well as the board.  He was seen by a child psychologist who said, “I don’t know why they sent you to me except that it’s a part of the process.  Jake appears to be a well-adjusted student who isn’t a threat to himself or other students.  He made a mistake that any eleven year old might make and my recommendation will be for him to return to school and resume his regular schedule.”

Of course, I expected that reaction but it didn’t sit well with me.  The entire process didn’t sit well and I don’t know who to blame.  Maybe no one is to blame.  Jake did something stupid that any kid might do (can’t blame him), the AP did what he was required to do (can’t blame him), the child psychologist did what she was required to do (can’t blame her) and it all worked out in the end.  Jake is back in school after being expelled for six days (the administration even lifted one day of the suspension and let him back in a day early.)  Still…it really didn’t sit well with me.  I guess it’s like so many things in this post nine-eleven society.  Jake brought a fake grenade paperweight to school and he was expelled for five days and has the incident on his permanent record.  I just don’t understand or agree with the process.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget him crying so hard he couldn’t even talk because he thought he was going to be sent to a school for “bad” kids and would lose all his friends.  I don’t think a normal kid doing stupid things any normal kid would do should be made to feel like a criminal.  In all honesty, everyone treated him well.  The administration was firm but they weren’t nasty or mean to him.  Of course, Jake is a smart kid and he knew he was in big trouble.  You don’t have to yell at him or threaten him.  He was devastated to learn that he was being expelled.  And there’s something really sad about that.  Something heart wrenching when good kids are hurt so badly for doing kid things that aren’t meant to harm anyone or anything.  And Jake’s not the same.  He came back to Moore but he doesn’t feel the same about it.  Doesn’t feel like one of the “top dogs” anymore.  The leaders and over achievers.  The honor kids who set examples for others.  He’ll probably get over it but maybe not.  I remember when I got my first “B” in college.  Something changes and you never feel quite the same after that.  Like you’re riding high and get knocked down a few notches.

I know I wanted special treatment for Jake.  I wanted him treated differently than other kids.  Everyone followed protocol so I shouldn’t feel hurt about what happened.  The problem is that I know that other kids are treated special.  We have kids who are a monumental pain in the ass.  Kids that you know are going to wind up behind bars and I see them being given so many breaks and receiving special treatment all the time.  Protocol is set aside because of one thing or another and they get all kinds of breaks.  That’s why it hurt so bad when Jake was put through the process.

Enough.  It’s behind us and we’re moving on. Jake will handle it and his self-esteem may suffer but he’s a great kid and he’ll be okay in the end.  Me?  I took a real close look at retirement and decided to stay for a while.  I’m not sure if this will be my last year but it probably will.  I have a rough group of students and it takes a lot to deal with them everyday.  It leaves me worn out and I never get out of the building without putting in a couple hours overtime each day writing up referrals or calling parents.  I don’t get to do the kind of things I like to do with students because they don’t handle it very well.  I’m forced to keep them busy with lots of worksheets and “busy work” because they climb the walls if I try to let them do something fun or creative.  Maybe next trimester will be better but this one feels like my class is a dumping ground for every student that they don’t know what to do with.

And now, I guess I need to get back on the Honolulu Choo Choo.  I got derailed and I’ve got to get back on track.

18thSeptember

Totally bummed out

I haven’t written for a while because I’ve been so bummed out.  Keep thinking it’ll get better but it hasn’t so far.

First off, I’ve been run ragged trying to keep up with school.  We had Open House which gave us a 13 hour day, followed by a couple of days when I had doctor’s appointments and then, last Monday was the real kicker.  Jake got in big trouble at school and I’ve been angry ever since.

Last summer, when we took the boys on vacation and they wanted to visit all those battlefields…Andrew bought a paperweight that looked like a grenade. Except that it says, all across the front of it, “This item is a paperweight.  NOT a weapon.”  Yeah, you guessed it, Jake took it to school.  So here we have this great eleven year old kid on the honor roll, the advanced program, the math team and the quick recall team and he’s never been in trouble for anything in school.  So what did they do?  They expelled him from school.  Yeah, you heard me…they expelled him. 

I was shocked.  No one at school would even talk to me about it.  They treated him like a common criminal.  I did find out, from the teacher, that Jake was showing it to one of his friends and she said, “Jake, what do you have?” and he told her, “It’s a fake grenade my cousin bought.  It’s not real but it looks like it.”  The teacher called security to escort him to the office.  She said she thought they would take it away from him and read him the riot act for bringing it to school.  She was just as shocked as I was that they would respond the way they did.

As I said, no one would even tell me what was going on.  I always take Jake home and the AP told me he was in trouble and he’d have to call his parents.  I said, “What did he do?  Is he alright?” and he assured me that he was fine and told me it wasn’t anything that I needed to be involved in.  Told me it was nothing personal but they would have to contact David or Stacy about it.  Said there are certain policies that they have to follow that don’t allow for any compromise.  The next thing I knew, the AP was calling Stacy and David to get up to the school.  They couldn’t get David because his cell phone wasn’t working right but they called Stacy at work and she had to come to pick up Jake.  They told her that he was expelled and would have to make an appointment with a psychologist and they would be sending him to an alternative school for students who are a threat to themselves or others.

I didn’t find out what was going on until I got home that day and David was able to contact DIL to get the details.  He was livid.  And, by the way, so was I. 

Are you f*cking kidding me????  The kid is ELEVEN years old.

And they know him.  In the afternoons when I’m tied up with meetings or parents or just trying to grade papers, Jake runs errands for the office staff while he’s waiting for me.  They all know him personally.  It’s not like they’re dealing with an unknown entity.  They send him running all over the building making deliveries and he feels like a big shot and thinks it’s a privilege that they truat him to help out.

I tried to call to ask him exactly what happened and he was crying so hard I couldn’t understand anything he said.  He didn’t understand exactly what he’d done that was so bad and all he knew was that he was expelled from school and wouldn’t be able to attend school where I work anymore and wouldn’t go to school with his friends anymore but would have to go to a different school for bad kids.

I was totally PISSED!  He was treated like a common criminal.  I fired off the following email to the AP:

Bill,

Had I known how serious the problem with Jake was, I would have been much more vocal yesterday afternoon.  As it is, I didn’t realize until David told me the consequences. 

Needless to say, I am totally shocked.  According to Stacy, Jake has been kicked out of Moore, expelled for six days and ordered to make arrangements to attend an alternative school for students who are disciplinary problems.  I’m assuming this is the situation.

Jake is 11 years old.  He has never been written up for anything and is not a threat to anyone at Moore or any other school.  We will NOT be sending him to “an alternative school for students with disciplinary problems”.  If necessary, we will send him to a private school.  He is a great kid who did something stupid and should be disciplined as such.  Not as a threat to the safety of other students.  I tried to talk to him last night to find out what happened but he was crying so hard I couldn’t understand anything he said.  Jake loves Moore and is an asset to our student body.  Quite frankly, Moore is lucky to have him and I’m very upset that he has been treated as if he deliberately did something so attrocious that he should not be allowed to interact with other students and attend our school.

We will be contacting our attorney tomorrow and starting the appeal process immediately.

I sent this email to the AP who handled the situation and cc’d the principal.  The next morning, my classroom phone rang and a member of the administration said, “Pat, this call didn’t take place.  I just want to assure you that we have to go through this process with Jake but we have no intention of sending him to an alternative school.  I’ve already contacted the people who will be handling this and told them we definitely want Jake back at Moore.  He’s a great kid who made a mistake.  Again, this call didn’t take place but I don’t want you to worry about it.  He’s going to be fine.”

At first, I was happy.  Then, I wasn’t.  The more I thought about it, the madder I got.  I mean, if you know Jake is a great kid and this whole incident was just because he didn’t understand the implications of bringing a fake weapon to school, why would you put him through this? 

 I kept thinking about how hard he was crying and how he kept telling me he didn’t know he couldn’t bring it to school and he’d do anything to keep from having to attend a school for bad kids and my blood started to boil.  I get threatened at least once a year.  Sometimes, two or three times a year.  Those threats are supposed to be taken seriously but nothing happens because we know the kids who act that way.  Know that they’re just venting and letting off steam and they’re not REALLY going to do anything.  So, if we make exceptions for those kids, why don’t we make exceptions for Jake and the kids like him?  I guess we figure the really good kids can handle it.  They’ll pick themselves up and get back in the game.

I got off work at 2:30 and I drove to Frankfort.  Got a copy of my retirement papers.  I decided to wait at least a week before filling them out.  I was so ready to just take a month’s worth of sick days and be done with it.  Now it’s been almost a week and I’ve reconsidered.  I don’t do things like that.  I would never finish up my career by doing something that I consider underhanded.  Still, I came pretty close.  Last Tuesday, they asked if I was going to handle the Highview Festival for the school again this year and I said, “No.”  On Wednesday, they asked if I would work the Showcase of Schools like I usually do and I told them “No.”  No reasons, no excuses, just “No.”

In the meantime, Jake has missed a week of school so far.  He’s seen the child psychologist who said he’s not a threat to himself or others.  Just a kid who made a mistake just like any other 11 year old might do.  I haven’t seen him this week.  DIL blames me for a lot of what happened.  Seems to think I could have done something and didn’t.  I can’t say I blame her.  As much as I’ve done at school, I would have thought they would have handled things differently.   DIL thinks that Jake shouldn’t even return to the school where I work because of how he was treated.  I can’t say I disagree.  And Jake, as much as he enjoys the school and his friends, doesn’t want to come back to Moore.  He’s been humiliated and feels ashamed and doesn’t want to have to face everyone after his expulsion is taken care of and he’s readmitted. 

What have we done to kids?  How do we take a great kid who works hard and loves school and make him feel like some kind of criminal for doing something that any eleven year old might do.  We’ve robbed kids of so much of their childhoods.  We don’t do Halloween or Christmas anymore.  Force them to wear uniforms so they look like everyone else and treat an eleven year old like a deranged terrorist.  This isn’t the educational system I signed up for. 

3rdSeptember

Blame it on April

We have a new business teacher.  Her name is April.  She’s young and has only been teaching for a couple of years.  She took the computer lab that I didn’t want.  The small, cramped little room with 30 computers arranged so close you can’t walk around without making zig zags and detours.  She asked me for help in setting up some of the computers and getting her email straightened out before the students came back and we became friends. 

We’re down at the far end of the building.  Nothing is close to us.  Not the bathroom or the copier or the mailroom or the sign-in sheet.  We don’t even have parking spaces because all the parking spaces at that end of the building are “sold” to seniors who are allowed to paint and decorate their spaces.  Still, April’s bouncing around, hugging and kidding with her students.  She stands at the door, greeting each of them as they enter.  Everyone is talking and kidding around until the bell rings and then they all get quiet and get to work.  Her classroom is calm and serene and the lights are dim.  Classical music is playing and the kids are whispering; if they’re talking at all.  She’s loving her job and loving her students and all is well in April’s world.  

I’m across the hall.  I have the big room with 30 student desks and 30 computer stations.  I have 6 students who are labeled as BD (behavior disorder) in my four class periods.  Add one girl who’s legally blind, four students who are Learning Disabled and very low achieving and a sprinkling of other ECE issues in each class.  Another three students who speak limited English and the general assortment of kids who just wanna have fun.  My first and second period classes are a royal pain in the ass.  Then I have my planning period.  Fourth and fifth periods are actually pretty good and I enjoy working with them but I’m usually stressed out by the time I get them and just want some peace and quiet.

I look at April and then I look at myself.  April’s still in love with teaching.  I don’t think I am.  I feel frustrated and overwhelmed.  I don’t see it as a challenge.  It feels more like a burden.

I’m not sure if I would have seen what was happening if April and I hadn’t become friends.  She bounces over to my classroom everyday at lunch, running a hundred miles an hour, throwing her lunch into the microwave and running down the hall to the restroom while it’s heating.  She’s young and agile and bubbling over with enthusiasm.  Bows her head and says a fifteen second prayer over her lunch and then wolfs it down while chatting about all the wonderful things happening in her classroom.  And I’m loving her and seeing the contrast between us.  Kid’s deserve Aprils in their lives.  She’s bolting down the hallway in her six inch heels and I’m struggling to stand with my swollen ankles and aching feet.

And that’s when I realized that I need to retire.  Because I’m not April anymore.  I’m tired.  I’m not giving my students what they need and I’m not getting what I need.  It’s not fair to either of us.

More about this tomorrow.  For now, I’m going to help Andrew with redoing his room.  I know I could have done this in a weekend not so long ago.  Now I’m really struggling to get it done and I’ve been working on it for two weeks.

I’m still out here.  Still being run ragged by school.  All week, it’s been non-stop school stuff and I haven’t been able to just sit down and take an hour for myself.  Looking forward to the weekend so I can finally slow down and write a decent post.