Friday, December 16, 2005
“Where do we store our crap?”
I looked at the 17-year-old-girl sitting across the table from me. It had been several months since a question from a student had thrown me. However, the confusion on my face had to be evident to her.
Shalay stared at me desperately waiting for words of explanation and wisdom. For reasons that did not escape me I was her favorite teacher. Not that she liked me, but she respected me because I never deviated from my stance with her. Young ladies act like ladies and young men act like gentlemen. Sure it is my interpretations of young men and women. However, I feel confident in my formative years of development.
“What crap are you talking about?”
I was sure her concerns were for her worldly possessions that she daily left in the singlewide mobile home. A mobile home she shared with her grandmother, great-grandmother, two sisters, one brother, but not her mother or father. Her mother was half-way through her second jail term for drug use and sale. It was anyone’s guess where her father was or who he was. Oh, did I forget to say that in addition to the above-mentioned people her 11-month-year-old baby also lived there? The father of the child, one of the finer alternative school students in Nashville, sometimes visited. Having him visit was preferable to him moving into the two-bedroom mobile home.
“You know, Poop!” she said with a small flash of embarrassment on her face.
For a fleeting moment I thought she was making a joke out of some comment by another student in the classroom. Then I realized she was asking about bodily functions. Perhaps I should have brushed the question off and discussed it later with her. However, the teacher reared its knowledgeable head inside me. I was sure this could be a biological, No Child Left Behind, Value Added, inspirational, educational moment. In a few minutes I would learn it was nothing more then the dying gasp of a delusion about saving the whales left over from my college career.
I easily slipped into my finest special education science teacher persona. My explanation was masterful. Employing graphic, but not obscene, details of the digestive system ending with a wonderful analogy of a school book bag and the colon. I leaned back in my padded desk chair and looked at Shalay’s newly educated face. Yes sir, what a lesson! The gazed on her face did little to confirm my posturing. It was a vacant and yet confused, This Child Left Behind, Little Value Added, uninspired, non-educational gaze.
“I thought it was stored in your testicles?”
I tried to shuffle around in my chair to avoid the question. This was not to be. Her gaze followed me no matter which way I turned. She could easily have been one of those paintings in your wealthy aunt’s house whose eyes followed you everywhere. My whole teaching career came down to this impromptu biology lesson.
“Ain’t it stored in your testicles,” Shalay asked again?
The two guys sitting quietly at the second table could no longer be silent. Their laughter exploded across the tables and washed across my dying biology lesson.
“What the hell are you talking about Shalay,” Teddy asked? “What the hell are your testicles attached to?”
Demonstrating no embarrassment and a wonderful anger control impulse, which she was not noted for, Shalay turned toward them. They both immediately became silent. The last thing either one wanted was to confront her physically.
“My testicles are attached to my baby’s daddy,” she said this with all the calm of a mature mother. “You don’t seem to have any attached to you.”
With that Shalay rose and exited the portable classroom. This left the two male students and me to digest our failures in different arenas of Special Education in public school.
Monday, December 05, 2005
“There must be something in the water,” Sammi said in response to my question.
“I don’t think it’s in the water, sweetie.”
“My daddy was mad as hell at me. He acted like he loved me or something.”
Sammi is the fourth 15-year-old to become pregnant this school year. The year is not half over. I assume sex education in the home or the school is not going as planned. The first to announce the blessed event was Angelina. One week to the day of her happy proclamation the father of the child was shot dead during a drug deal gone bad. Bad for him, but I’m unsure if it was bad for mother and baby. The following month Gina was proudly traversing the campus telling anyone that would listen about her unborn child.
“I really want to be a mama! I love dolls. I hope it’s a boy.”
I looked at this wanna-be “Barbie” well on her way to giving birth to a real world Ken and asked her, “You realize babies grow for at least eighteen years unlike a doll?”
“Of course I do. Don’t be silly. Anyway, I love dressing dolls and I’m going to dress my little boy so cute.”
My sarcasm and feeble attempt with a lesson was lost on her. The fourth to announce the impending joy was Christy. She is the longtime girlfriend of Roosevelt. This announcement did not surprise me. For two years on a weekly basis she stated over lunch “I’m going to have Roosevelt’s baby that way I can keep him.” Having failed with her master plan of bringing him food, lots of food each morning, with the goal of fattening him to the point that no other girl would want him she then decided to fatten herself instead.
Roosevelt could always find female companionship, some even willing to buy him meals. On Christy’s surface this did not seem to bother her. Her mother had become pregnant at fifteen, followed two weeks later by a car accident. Mom was confined to a wheelchair there after. Christy’s father had not been seen sense her day of birth. I believe I saw her mother outside of their home once, but Christy assured me I was mistaken. I hoped history would not repeat itself.
“Sammi, your father does love you. That could be why he is so angry,” I told her returning from my thoughts of the other girls.
“No. He’s mad at me. Just like he gets when I don’t come home at night. My mom doesn’t care how late I stay out, so why should he?”
My excellent powers of deduction, developed from watching old Sherlock Holmes movies, told me I could have stumbled upon the cause for her pregnancy. Her boyfriend, Duke, is a mere 24-years-old. Mom and dad had only stepped up to complain about this age difference, when perhaps they should have reined in their 15-year-old daughter. Sammi’s mother tried for several years to be her daughter’s best friend instead of her parent. Now she gets another chance to raised a child with better results I hope.
“How’s Duke feeling about you being pregnant?”
“I think he’s happy about it. He told me he’s going back to Ohio this weekend.”
“He hates his job right now and he’s going to look for another one.”
“Where’s he work?
“Huh, I can’t remember the name of the place.”
“Where is the place?”
“What does he do?”
“He never told me.”
“Why doesn’t he look for work around here?”
“More jobs in Ohio.”
I realized she knew very little about Duke. My hunch is the one thing she surely didn't know was that he will not be returning from Ohio. I wondered if he’d take Roosevelt with him to search for work. Of course, Christy only had bad luck and Roosevelt leaving town could only be classified as good luck.
The other pregnant girls settled in around my large classroom table during first lunch. They had gravitated to meeting in my classroom on a daily basis. I’ve taken to calling the first of three lunches scheduled for the school as The Maternity Ward. The girls all think it’s cute. I’ve tried to recall which college class, designed to mold me into a liberal special education teacher, addressed this situation. The one thing they have accomplished is the taming of the guys that once-upon-a-time dominated my classroom. Tamed some and ran others away. Morning sickness, weight gain, stretch marks, baby food, sex, and any other baby discussions sure cramped the style of my hardened “gangstas”.
Oh yes, discussions about cramps weren’t appreciated by the “gangstas” either.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
This blog is informative, well constructed, and above all is written by a teacher that cares.
Please forgive me QueenAnne for posting and assuming your permission.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
The doorbell rang. Looking through the glass storm door, there he was. The son I never wanted. I first met him three years ago at an intake meeting where his grandmother proclaimed herself an international expert on special education. His mother attended the intake meeting. Her first words proclaimed, "I'm an adult ADHD, (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and I know what my son is going through!" My first thought upon meeting her was an NFL linebacker. She easily topped six feet tall and probably weighed in at two hundred pounds. Honestly, she did not appear fat. Just broad shoulders, short hair, and very large feet. Of course, her overwhelming feature was ADHD. She went out of her way to maintain her ADHD as the driving force in her life. Through several meetings, attempting to address her son's academics or behavior, she contributed a long litany of events to her "Adult ADHD"; a broken down car, the loss of three jobs, never cooking a meal for her son, failed relationships, rain, sunshine, night, day.
Her mother was always on the telephone while snuggled down at her D.M.V. desk in Kansas. She once taught, for a grueling two years, in a rural public school. Then her career took a hairpin curve into a sixteen-year pit stop at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Many meetings later, filled with accusations about the inadequacy of the education system, and three years of weekly telephone call updates to Roosevelt's mom succeeded in making him my shadow. For three years seldom did a school day pass that he was not with me for at least two hours. More often he blessed me with his presence for six-and-three-quarter-hours. His ADHD and immaturity ruled his life. Additionally, he craved the attention of any male figure offering guidance or discipline.
“Hello,” Roosevelt said, waving through the glass storm door.
“Just a second,” I said, trying to slip into my pajama pants. The comfort of sitting around in my underwear on a lazy holiday was erased from the agenda.
Roosevelt made himself comfortable on the couch. His childish smile dominating his face. My dog stood on the footstool barking at him nervously. She doesn’t care for visitors in her domain and cares less for them talking to me. “What you doing, bud?"
“Just running around. I came by around 9:30 this morning, but it didn’t look like anyone was up.”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t ring the doorbell,” I stated with fake anger. He didn’t need to know I had been up since 3:30 A.M. “You celebrating Thanksgiving with your mom?”
“Yeah, my grandmother came in, too.”
“How’s your mom’s roommate,” I asked? He came by several months before to inform me that his mom had announced to him that she is gay and introduced her new roommate, Wendy, to him and his newly pregnant girlfriend.
“How’s your grandmother dealing with your mom’s friend?”
“She’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner.”
“And ignoring Wendy,” he replied, followed by a nervous laugh. “She walks around like Wendy isn’t in the house. That’s okay I don’t really like Wendy, either.”
“I’m shocked.” I decided to let the subject drop. “You working?”
He lifted up his left foot to proudly display a tennis shoe covered with paint specks. “I’m painting the inside of new houses in a subdivision over in Franklin. My boss picks me up at 5:30 every morning. Man, it was a lot easier in school, not having to get up until 7:00.”
I could have steered the conversation toward the virtues of staying in school and graduating, but it would have been lost on him as it was several hundred times before. “Where’s Christy?”
“She’s at her mom’s house. We’re going over to my house to eat, later.” Christy is his very pregnant girlfriend, due February 21st. She had sat out to become pregnant at the age of sixteen to keep Roosevelt. Now it appears she will have two babies to raise.
The conversation touched on several subjects from his impending fatherhood to friends of his that had recently been arrested for armed robbery and the shooting of a convenience store clerk. He tried to take the side of the crooks, but even he knew it was the wrong side to take.
“Why do you think they did it,” he asked?
“Boom Boom wanted the street rep.”
“But they had the money and then shot the clerk.” He wrestled with why a seventeen and fourteen year old would commit a string of robberies and shoot someone.
“I don’t get it either.” It was best to leave it where it was instead of trying to impress my middle class adult values on a bi-racial youth trying to find his place in the world. His most daring crime to date had been shoplifting a pair of pants from an upscale mall store. They weren’t even his size. He wanted to impress a friend.
“I’ve got to be going.”
“It’s about time,” I said with a smile. He smiled back understanding my fake sincerity
“Happy Thanksgiving, man,” he said over his shoulder getting into his worn out car. My dog continued to bark until he had driven out of sight.
I returned to the writing of another entry for my Special Education journal with the knowledge I would never have a lack of situations to write about.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Roosevelt."