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