Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not Safe in Her Own Bed

Some of you who are local may have heard about this.  A six-year old girl - not at the school I used to work at but one nearby - was shot while asleep in her bed. Now, I’ve written about several kids who have been shot and killed (thankfully, this little girl is going to make it although it’s an experience she should never have had to go through) and I see two kinds of responses.  Primarily, people are compassionate and express what I consider to be the appropriate emotions: sadness, incredulity, and anger.  Occasionally, however, there’s someone either commenting on my blog or on the story that I linked to basically saying “Well, they live in the ghetto, what do they expect?”  I hate that reaction.  I understand it, especially if the person writing is afraid - they need to reassure themselves that these kids were different in some way and that this could never happen to their own children.  But I hate it.
It comes back to this for me though: we should never stop being outraged and devastated when children are killed.  Ever.  I don’t care if it’s in East Oakland or Congo, just because something is frequent does not make it normal or acceptable.  This child was shot while she was sleeping.  I don’t know what to do about it (no idea; I wish I did) but I do know that we can’t accept it.
I was talking to “Chantal,” my former student who has now graduated from high school.  She’s doing better - gotten a job, had a little bit of help from a generous friend of mine, and is feeling encouraged.  But this really got her down.  She said she knew the city was bad and she wants to travel cause she’s sick of looking at this “tore-up ghetto.”  But even this girl, who has grown up in this environment and known plenty of kids and adults who have been the victims and perpetrators of violent crimes… even with all that, she just kept repeating, “I never thought a little kid wouldn’t be safe in her own bed.”
One year ago: Elmo and Gang Signs

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ten Things I Like About You

You'd think that a list of good things about someone would make them happy.  Not so for the two students that I helped make these lists.  One was this child, who really truly hated himself.  The other was the student at the end of this post who says he's going to kill his father if he ever gets out of jail.  This child, "Fred," was something special.

Fred was so angry that it almost gave him superhuman strength.  He was a small second grader when he was terrorizing fifth graders.  I had him in first and third grades and apparently I did something right because he would seek me out when he was angry.  He would clench his fists, turn bright red, breath hard, and say "You've got to calm me down.  You're the only one who can calm me down."  He would lose control of his body and flail around.  He usually didn't care who got in his way, but there was one instance that scared him.  He was flailing his body like usual and he knocked me into a wall.  I was fine - he was a small kid - but he froze and looked terrified.  I had never seen him have that reaction before and I sort of think it might have been fear that he lost the one person he could trust.

This child's mother was being abused by her boyfriend - the father of Fred's brother and sister - and often showed up with bruises on her face.  Another teacher told me that they were having a conference for the younger brother and the mom tried to speak up and her boyfriend just raised the back of his hand at her, like he was going to backhand her across the face.  She shut up.  She could be mean herself.  She was fiercely protective and vacillated between "my child can do no wrong" and "Help me; I don't know what to do with him."  Most of the time she knew I was on their side but sometimes she'd yell at me too.

One day, when Fred was in my third grade class, he threw a fit.  I have no idea what it was about but this was turned more on himself than usual, a lot of "I hate myself," "I'm no good," etc.  He flailed on the floor, yelled, crumpled paper, knocked things over.  It was after school, so I let him do that for a while.  Finally, I said, "Fred, we're going to make a list of things that are good about you."  He froze.  I got on the computer and started typing.

I had no help from Fred at all.  He alternately flailed and screamed on the floor (and this wasn't just a temper tantrum; it was obvious that he was in really serious emotional pain) and got curious enough to come look at what I was writing.  I have no memory at all of what I wrote.  Things like "He is a great reader" and "He always respects me," probably.  (He never respected anyone else but he did respect me).  I finished and told Fred that I was printing two copies, one for me and one for him, so that we could each remember some good things about him.  I told him that these weren't all the good things about him, because that would take way too long.  These were only ten and there were way more.

I printed Fred's copy and he said "I don't want your stupid list."  He crumpled it up and threw it.  I told him that was fine, he could do whatever he wanted with it.  I said that I was keeping mine to remind me of some of the great things about him.  He kept repeating that he didn't want "no stupid list."  I think he really wanted me to react angrily for some reason, but I just kept saying that it was his and he could do whatever he wanted with it.

Finally, Fred left. I turned around and kept working on the computer.  I heard the door open again and footsteps.  When I turned around, he was disappearing through the door and the list was in his hand.

I just heard that Fred got kicked out of high school for "being bad."  I don't know where he is or what he's doing but I really hope he remembers that there are way more good things about him than fit on that list.

Three years ago: The Education President

Four years ago: Teacher, I Brung My Homework!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Teacher by Another Other Name

Many of us can remember accidentally calling a teacher "Mom" at some point during our school years.  In high school, a girl in my US history class called our teacher "Mr. Roosevelt" because she was studying so hard for the AP test.  It's embarrassing from that point of view, but hilarious from the teacher's point of view.  Some of the things I've been called instead of "Teacher" or my name include:

  • Mama
  • Daddy
  • Auntie
  • Granny
  • Mama, I mean Teacher!
  • Ms. Simmons ("you both have glasses, I can't tell you apart!"  Ms. Simmons is black.  I am white.)
  • the name of every white teacher in the school because "it's like you's twins"
  • Auntie Bertha
  • Uncle Larry
While Uncle Larry is my favorite (it kind of stopped the whole class in their tracks),  Auntie Bertha was also pretty amusing.  I had met Auntie Bertha.  She is a LARGE very dark-skinned black woman who was probably in her 60s.  I was a tall thin (at that point) very pale white woman in my late 20s at that point.  I joked, "Do I look like your Auntie Bertha?  The girl looked at me carefully and said, "Yeah...  yeah, you kinda do."

One year ago: Starfish

Three years ago: The University Perspective on NCLB

Four year ago: Back to School Night

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"I Hate Me"

Today, I have a sad story to share.  I've been meaning to share this story for four years but at the same time, I haven't wanted to think about it.  This is the story of a child who is considered by many to be unreachable.  I really don't believe it is too late - I don't believe it's ever too late - but many people do.

"TJ" was a child with many, many problems.  I got to know his mom pretty well.  She was a single mom and I never heard a word about his dad.  I'm not sure if he was just out of the picture or if TJ even knew who his dad was.  (I've had plenty of kids where the blank for "father" on their birth certificate just says "unknown."  Others just have a first name because the last name is unknown.)

TJ's mom often alluded to a former drug problem.  She was in her mid-20s and had two kids at home and was also taking care of a sick mother and a bipolar developmentally delayed brother.  She was understandably overwhelmed and didn't know how to deal with a kid with so many special needs as well as overwhelming anger and self-hatred.

TJ was a smart kid but had the shortest fuse I have ever seen.  He had absolutely no tolerance for frustration and would completely melt down.  The minute he couldn't understand something, he would fall on the floor, cry, scream, wail, hit other kids, flail his body wildly and basically shut down the classroom.  He had to be sent out of class most days and was suspended at least once a month, driving the administration crazy because statistics for black boys and suspensions are already so bad without TJ making them worse.

I tried to teach him some coping strategies but he just had nothing to start with.  He did see a therapist (intern) at school but it was on Mondays and there are a lot of Monday holidays so it was really inconsistent.  Also, she went on maternity leave, so I think it may actually have done more harm than good, getting comfortable with someone who left as soon as he began to trust her.  We worked on the word "frustrated" so that he could tell me how he was feeling and not just have temper tantrums; it was a huge accomplishment when he could just say the word "frustrated" before he lost control.  We made a list of 10 things we like about him (that will get another post because it was a very emotional process that I've only done with two children) and called his mom every time he did something right because I wanted him to get positive reinforcement.

The problem, of course, was that I had 19 other students who were all extremely challenging themselves and I just couldn't give him what he needed.  At home, his mom was similarly overwhelmed and couldn't do what she needed to.  He adored his mother and would talk about how he was going to make lots of money so that she never had to worry again.  She said that sometimes she'd wake up and he'd have dragged his pillow and blanket to her doorway so that he could sleep just inside her room to be close to her.

TJ got much better at identifying his feelings and I'd often get notes like the one in the picture.  It broke my heart but I'd say something like "Thank you for telling me.  I'm so sorry that you feel so bad about yourself.  I don't hate you - I think you're very special and I am so glad you're in my class.  You can keep telling me how you feel about yourself.  I know it feels really bad to hate yourself."  Or "I know you're feeling bad about yourself right now and that is really hard.  I think you're doing a good job telling me your feelings and I think you're one of my favorite kids."  Totally inadequate, but what else do you say?  All I knew was to let him say it and not answer with "Oh, you don't really hate yourself."  Because he did.

The year after I had him (or maybe in 5th grade, I'm not sure), he was sent home to be suspended.  I think he had hurt another kid.  He never meant to hurt them, he just had so much anger and self-hatred that he didn't know what else to do, and then he'd hate himself more because he had hurt someone else, usually younger.  The administration called his mother to come get him and when she came, he was out of control, flailing around.  She looked at him and said something like, "That's enough, TJ, I don't want you any more," and walked out.  While it was the worst thing possible that she could do, I honestly don't think she knew what else to do.  But for TJ, who would do anything for his mother, I think it probably seemed like the world was ending.  The administration had to call the police because that's child abandonment.

TJ loved the movie Cars, and Pixar Animation in general.  That year, I had a friend who had worked on Cars come into the class.  The kids assumed he was famous and had them sign their Happy Meals and draw pictures of Mater, the character he had worked on.  TJ talked about him constantly.  When that friend gave me a Cars t-shirt later that summer, I sent it to TJ.  It wasn't sent back to me, so I'm hoping I had the right address and that he got it.  If he did, I imagine he wore it until it wore out.  I hope it did a tiny bit to show him that I think he's worthy of special attention.  I still pray for this kid because wherever he is, I think it's probably still really hard to be TJ.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Almost Famous

Well, not really.  But my blog did get a mention in the Huffington Post today!  My name isn't in it but it links to my blog:

An elementary school teacher who blogs about her work ( reinforces this: "Parents don't necessarily read the paper, but the television is on all the time. I have had kids who have gone to stay at a relatives' house, not because the water or heat was out, but because the cable TV was down."

(note: I put in the apostrophe correctly even though it ended up being incorrect.  That is important to me.)

The article talks about how kids get their news.  The author points out that Weekly Reader (do we all remember that!) used to be used in most classrooms but now budgets and time constraints cause kids to not really learn about current events in school.  Very true and not a great idea in the long run, I think.  I'd rather have kids learning about what's going on in the world so they can make decisions and vote and be informed than have them take useless standardized tests.  But nobody asked me. 

I did have kids change houses when the cable TV wasn't working.  Television was such a staple of their parents' (usually a single mother) lives that when there was no TV, the house was not considered habitable.  It's really easy for me to condemn that but then I think about how long I'd stay in my house with no Internet access. 

One year ago: But Those People Have Such Funny Names

Friday, September 17, 2010

Guest Post: Family Legacy

Today's guest post is from Stephanie K., a wonderful former colleague of mine.  She was actually the first teacher I ever talked to at my old school.  When I came for an interview, I observed the class I would be taking over, and taught them a sample lesson.  I had some free time and Stephanie was either on lunch break or a prep period - I remember she was cutting something out of construction paper for the kids.  I asked her about the class and she told me how hard the school was and how it was extremely difficult but also rewarding.  She has some wonderful stories and I hope she writes again soon!

The grandmother of a particular family was the queen bee of a speed producing ring, as I understand it. 
T. was supposed to be in first grade the year before she was in my class, but she was shot. According to her, she was not shot on purpose, but whoever shot her was trying to shoot a twelve-year-old, which in that neighborhood is considered a grown person. She was out of school all year recovering, and by September she was ready to try first grade take two with the biggest scar I've ever seen on a child. It was about a foot long and an inch wide.

I really felt shafted about that first year's class list (it was probably a lot like B's first year with the abandoned class). I had this boy from out of the district, who was in foster care who was so damaged that he presented as a three year old. Climbing the furniture, moving it around, breaking stuff, all of that. Essentially unteachable, really. I also had M. He was the kid who called me nigg@ when I had him AGAIN in second after he was held back. That second year I learned to let him sleep when he fell asleep in his desk or on the carpet, but that's another year, another story.

T., by all rights, should have been by third most challenging student, but she was my easiest, and one of my smartest (damn smart crazy class). She came to school to get some peace. Her eyes would well up with tears when the kids would misbehave sometimes. She needed a safe place to go so badly. Even though I was completely drained all the time, I would sometimes take her and her friend A., who had sunshine inside, out to the little courtyard and we'd eat lunch together. She was absolutely a wonderful child.

She went on to be one of the shining stars in second grade, even though by then her cousins were having her hold drugs for them, which she was caught with at school - and suspended, despite her teacher's protestation that she was at the TOP of the class and it wasn't her fault.

A couple years later, she started having trouble with behavior in class, and I'd get her back for a hour or so every once in a while. She was still good as gold when she was with me. I worried a bit that she misbehaved at all (it just wasn't in her), but it was little stuff, and she had the right to act out.

Her sister was killed when T. was in fifth grade. In the news, her family said the sister was an A student with great attendance. In fact, she was failing and rarely made it to school. At fifteen, she was deep in the business. Of course, that is no excuse for her MURDER, but it's true nonetheless, and the truth doesn't get told very often in that part of town.

I'd be happy to tell stories about some other kids someday. Particularly, there's a little girl from my first year, a white girl who saw no color, was born of tragedy and everyone loved her. She was only there for one year, but she had a light inside.

One year ago: Letter to a Juvenile Delinquent

Thursday, September 16, 2010

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, México!

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, México!

Today is the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence.  ¡Feliz Bicentenario! Te extraño mucho.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The IM that Made Me Cry

I've been wishing I could help "Chantal" more but I just don't have the money to help her with school (she didn't ask - she would never ask - but I wish I could do it) and I don't have any connections to people willing to hire a 19-year old. 

She texts/IMs me sometimes asking if I know anyone who's hiring, but more often just saying that this is hard.  It's hard for her to be in her family, to have worked hard and graduated against all odds and not be able to find work or pay for classes.  I imagine it's incredibly difficult to know that there are kids who don't care at all about education and are in college to party but are getting it financed by their parents.  So, a lot of our chatting is just kind of a time for her to vent - I am not sure she has anyone else to talk to in this way.

The part that made me cry: (before you judge her writing, remember that ALL teenagers write like this on chat/IM/text)

 yeah but im glad that i still have you its like if ur ma teacher again. after 10years your still willing to help me

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I am volunteering - only one hour a week - at my old school.  My Little Sister goes to school there and I still know a couple of teachers at the school.  Which is actually two schools now.  Part of it feels so familiar that I actually had to stop myself from grabbing the papers out of what used to be my mailbox.   The one of the small schools that I visited, however, was much, much calmer.  I don't know what happened (or if it feels calmer to the teachers) but it has a very different feel.  I don't think the area is any less violent but a few things have changed:

1. The kids all wear uniforms, and it appears to be enforced
2. The administrators seem to be there for longer than a year at a time
3. The schools are smaller

Seems to make a difference... or maybe it's because I'm an outsider now, I'm not sure.

One year ago: Ouch! and Another Example

Two years ago: Guest Blog - Healthy Eating

Four years ago: Gecko Stories

Sunday, September 12, 2010

5th Grade Graduations

A friend and former colleague (who will probably have a guest post coming up soon!) sent me a news article about one of her former students whose sister was shot and killed in 2002.  I'll have more about that in her guest post but it made me think of something else: 5th grade graduations.

Fifth grade graduations were BIG at our school.  Flowers, fancy dresses, the whole family coming - I even saw a family or two who rented limos.  And these were families on food stamps.  I couldn't understand it for my first few years and then it dawned on me and made me really sad.  Fifth grade graduation might be the last graduation for a lot of these kids. 

I don't think that was the only reason for celebration - in an area where a lot of the parents didn't have a high school education or came from other countries so their kids could get an education, there was some honest celebrating of the fact that students were graduating from elementary school.  But I think even more than that, there was a feeling that this might be their last graduation.  You just never knew when kids were going to drop out, get pregnant, or just not make it. 

At one of these graduations, I was talking to a mother of one of my students - I had had him in first and third grade but I didn't know his mom well because she was not really around.  I think she was working as a prostitute; she was for sure not taking care of her four children as it fell upon the 6-year old to go without food so that the baby could have formula.  I had to call CPS several times on that kid.  Once his tooth was so infected that his mouth was bleeding freely and I had to send him home because blood was getting everywhere.  I told his mom how to find a free dentist and he came back the next day with his mouth bleeding.  It went on like that until I told his mom he couldn't come back to school like that - it was a health hazard.  By the time this kid graduated, the mom had cleaned herself up (her youngest two kids turned out very differently).  The mom was sobbing with pride at his graduation - she had much the same reaction as parents usually have at a high school graduation.   Sure enough, the next year the kid had essentially dropped out of school and I saw him hanging around the street reeking like marijuana.  I heard last year that he had been shot but not fatally.  I don't know why.

This story that my friend found shows that the kids aren't always expected to survive for another graduation even if they stay in school.  I don't follow the news in this city very carefully any more but I think I have read about four young teenagers (13-16 years old) killed in a little over a year.  In this 2002 story, the sister says:
"I'm worried I'm not going to make until I'm grown up," said Talika, 11, a fifth-grader at Highland Elementary School. "I used to cry at night and have trouble sleeping. . . . I cried for my sister, too. But I'm done. She's in a better place. We're stuck here." 
 It also made me think of the graduation speech I heard in which the graduating student said: "Another way our teachers show that they care about us is they don't let us go to the bathrooms or in the hall when there's shooting."  This graduation speech has haunted me for the last couple of years - to think that's something that these kids are actively grateful for.  They should be more sheltered than that.  That really should be taken for granted.  But then, these kids should be able to assume they'll at least graduate from middle school and they can't.

Three years ago: Updates

Four years ago: Funny Kids

Thoughts on "Worth It"

A friend and former colleague sent me this email - she wanted to comment on the post on facebook but for obvious reasons didn't want this traced back to her name.  She has great thoughts and is in a tough situation.

I have been having the same thoughts around worth. I have been looking for a full time job in education and in the mean time I am subbing. I am currently subbing at a small charter school in LA. I am in the room because the new teacher they hired is not credentialed and therefore cannot be in the classroom, legally, without a credentialed teacher. The teacher has made several mistakes when explaining topics. He has made grammar and spelling errors but in addition he exhibits a basic lack of knowledge on the various topics he is teaching. In addition the curriculum they are using has students work independently and has them self test out of topics. They are essentially teaching themselves. If ever a population of students needed actually direct instruction, its this group of 6th graders. The students need and deserve an academically strong teacher. I have been stepping in to correct him or just teach but I am not being paid for the job I am doing. I am acting as a mentor and co-teacher yet I am being paid as a substitute. I can't believe he has a job and I don't. It has been a frustrating week.

Three years ago: Back to Our Regularly Scheduled NCLB Idiocy (New president hasn't fixed NCLB yet)

Four years ago: Tiger the Leopard Gecko (who is still happy and healthy and now middle-aged)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Worth It

I just raised my rates for tutoring.  I find myself reluctant to tell potential clients how much I charge because I don't feel like I'm worth that much.  Also, at least a few times, I've gotten the response of "Well, I could hire a college student for $15 an hour."  Yes, yes you could.  But a college student is not a teacher.  Teachers are actually professionals, who have gone through education and training and theoretically at least, know what they're doing.  Of course, part of the problem is that teaching is so underpaid and under-respected that it's hard to get good people, and bad teachers make the whole profession look bad.  I think another problem is that it's a pink collar (traditionally female) job, which tend to lack in adequate compensation and respect.

However, I must be good at what I do, and there are at least a few people who think it worth paying for.  I actually raised my rate - sort of accidentally.  I was talking to the mom of a potential client and trying to figure out how I would work it into my schedule.  I didn't really think it would be feasible, so I inflated my rate by $10/hour, thinking she'd write me off as too expensive. She didn't even pause but agreed right away. 

Two more thoughts:

Has anyone else noticed that self-employed women tend to have a harder time charging what they're worth than men?  I think we really don't think we're worth much, and it's sad.

If one more person says "I'd love to teach elementary school; they're so cute," I am going to take them up on it and we'll see if they survive a week. 

One year ago: Tragedy

Four years ago: Dear Mom, How are You Doing in Jail?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mrs. Dwyer, Revisited

Instead of just including a link at the bottom of the post to past posts, there is one I think needs to be re-read because it is about an incredibly committed volunteer who changed the whole atmosphere of our school.  Here it is again: Mrs. Dwyer.  (The last paragraph is my favorite.)

I'm a little behind, but I wanted to share about our wonderful volunteer from last year, Kathy Dwyer. Kathy was working in the children's ministries department at my church and came to volunteer at my school. She was volunteering in a kindergarten class the year before (I think) and decided to help out in third grade last year.

Kathy started by reading with the kids and helping them with their practice tests. As she got to know the kids, I think she saw that they had a creative side that wanted to come out. Since we had really limited resources at school, she brought all the supplies for the projects. And these were GREAT projects. Painting wood shapes, making journals using cutouts from animal magazines and foam shapes, clay projects, Easter baskets with silk flowers and other decorations, St. Patrick's day projects, all sorts of fun things. They loved it because they got to be creative and didn't have to stick to only one piece of paper like they do when they're using very limited school supplies.

Then the snacks started! I forget the first snack, but the kids loved it and ate all the extras. Kathy saw that the kids were hungry and brought them all sorts of food that was much more healthy than most snacks they're used to. Granola bars, fruit bars, apples, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, milk, bottles of water (they loved those - I think they felt like adults with their bottled water).

Their responses showed that they appreciated the caring behind the gifts, and not just the crafts and food. They would ask me every week when Mrs. Dwyer was coming (except usually it was Mrs. Dryer or Mrs. Dwiler) and they'd get so excited when she'd come in. They would have loved doing crafts with anyone, but they just adored crafts with someone who loved them.

Their feelings were summed up by a comment from "Ray." Another kid asked why the milk in the cafeteria didn't taste as good as the milk that Mrs. Dwyer brought for snack. She was wondering if the cafeteria milk was expired (it wasn't). Ray said, "The milk Mrs. Dwyer brings us tastes better because Mrs. Dwyer loves us." It does not escape their notice for a minute when people truly care about them!

One year ago: He Ain't Supposed to Be in My Class

Four years ago: Sad.  Again.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Circus Comes to Town

Every time I come to pick up my Little Sister (who I'm calling "Clarabelle" in honor of what she names every toy she has), it looks like the circus is coming to town.  I pull up outside her house and kids come out of every door.  They all run over to me and start asking me questions, all at once.  Can I buy them candy?  Can I take them to wherever we're going?  Can they come to my house?  Can they play with my dog?  Can I get them a Big Brother or Big Sister?  There usually aren't any adults with them, just children.  I feel like the Pied Piper!

Three years ago: Girls Dressed as Women

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


When I was teaching, I learned that the community around the school l- specifically the black community - had a lot of problems and a lot of really amazing qualities.  This is all highly generalized, so please understand that I know that, and I know I'm not talking about everyone.  Family structure can be qualified as both negative and positive, I think.  There are so many missing fathers that it's a bit of a cliche.  I was always glad that Father's Day came after school was out because it was so hard for the kids.  Many of the mothers were quite young when they had children.  Many of them have children with all different fathers.

There are also some really wonderful parts to this particular black community.  The women in the family are generally incredible.  The extended family tends to be a strong one - at least in a matriarchal sense.  Many of my students had mothers, aunties, grannies, great-aunts, and even great-grandmothers who were involved in their lives.  Older sisters came on field trips and helped raise their little brothers.

This is obvious when I go to pick up my Little Sister.  her mom works until 5:00 so she goes to her Nana's house after school, as do most of her cousins and her little brother.  Regardless of if I pick her up at her mom's or Nana's house (in the same complex), there are usually at least four kids and a variety of adult aunties, cousins, and other women.  They all take care of her and love her and nurture her.  It's interesting, because you always hear about the collapse of the black family structure, but very little about the accomplishments.  I've seen a little brother look up to his adult sister and glow with pride when she compliments his report card, or three generations of women come to 5th grade graduation.  Many of us with more "traditional" nuclear families could benefit from that kind of familial involvement.

Today, I took my Little Sister out to eat. (I'm going to call her "Clarabelle" because that's what she names all her characters and imaginary animals!)  She doesn't eat very much - I guess 7-year olds don't eat much yet.  She had a burrito and decided she didn't like it and wanted to eat mine, which was huge, so we shared it.  She was sitting on my lap when a homeless guy walked over.  He looked like he was in his 60s, but may have been much younger, just with a hard life.  He had trouble talking and walking and was missing most of his teeth, but didn't seem like he was currently on drugs or drunk.  He didn't seem dangerous, and there were lots of restaurant employees around.

This guy asked for my Clarabelle's burrito, which was almost all still there.  She said he could have it (I think she felt safe because she was on my lap).  He said, "But I'm a bum.  Tell her I'm a bum, I'm homeless."  He never spoke directly to her, but kept telling me to tell her things.  I said it was OK, and wrapped up the burrito for him.  He said "But I'm homeless.  No problem?"  I said "No problem, you can have it."  We kept repeating this and then he looked at Clarabelle, and said to me, "She's going to go to college?"  I said she was.  He repeated that for a while, and then looked straight at me and said "You make sure she goes to college."  I said I would and he said, "She's a good girl?  She's smart?"  Clarabelle said yes, she was.  He looked at me and said, "You make sure she goes to college.  I'm just a bum.   I'm homeless.  God bless you and she goes to college."

He left and she said, "He wasn't scary.  He knows I'm smart and I need an education."  Then we had the conversation about how you never ever talk to adults you don't know when you're by yourself.  But she knew that already.

One year ago: Segregation in the Schools