“The ink is black, the page is white, together we learn to read and write”, so the song goes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if most of education was about education? As my dearly departed daddy always told me, “I get you school books and send you out to school and what do you do, you eat the covers off the books.”
I have several cover eaters that meander through my portable during the school day. At times it is difficult to scratch the veneer and expose the child longing for aid of some type. Their veneers are very thick. Consisting of coatings of years of neglect from their families, their “government schools”, their neighborhoods, the NEA, the Earth, the solar system, the universe, and on and on; get the picture?
Robbie is a transplant from Detroit. A tough kid from a tough group home and toughened long ago by a physically abusive father. Robbie’s mother finally escaped her own abuse by moving south. No one, including the government agency entrusted with protecting children in Michigan, followed up on where Robbie had moved. Robbie’s final veneer layer is his own sense of humor. He makes jokes, sings songs, and banters with his peers, but always with an eye on the nearest adult to spot any forthcoming retribution. He doesn’t find much in our school and none in my classroom.
Robbie tries to test boundaries in his new school and my little classroom is no exception. He and I have struggled for most of the first four weeks of school with boundaries. On the surface he wants no restrictions. However, at the same time, he wants me to be a boundary. Robbie lies about everything. He lies when the truth would serve him better. His female teachers all think he is bonding with them. Bonding is not exactly what is occurring.
Robbie has some unusual views about girls and women. Without attempting to be an amateur psychologist it could stem from the abuse he witnessed thrust upon his mother by his father. The identical abuse that his younger sister endured as well as his own abuse. Adult females are inferior to him and if he wants to touch them, then it’s his “right”. Female students are all his “b_t__es”. Pity the lone female student that says hello to him. They immediately become his “girlfriend”. Of course, they have no idea they have become a girlfriend.
After some confidential teacher re-education his female teachers now understand he is not being friendly and admiring by just wanting to be near them. They have relocated their desks from corners to an area allowing egress from each end. Additionally, they have made efforts not to be alone with Robbie, all but Ms. “I Can Control Any Situation”. The attack came out of the blue, but only to her. She and Robbie were laughing, joking, and being “friendly”. He wanted to share his lunch with her. Robbie managed to trap her in the corner behind her desk. He over-powered her and groped several areas of her body before her screams bought the theater teacher to her rescue.
Robbie now resides in a more restrictive alternative school where he is comfortable and has exhibited no further violent behavior to this date. The teacher has returned to teaching. Her students are impressed with her new classroom technique. She can now walk a circle around her room from both ends of her desk.
If education was created for the student what was created for the teacher? I often lull myself into false beliefs that I can reach any student, given the time and opportunity. My weapon and bruise collection attests to my many failures. It has been explained to me by administrators that a portion of my responsibilities are to offer classroom management techniques that help protect the teacher. Of course, they are not to know that is what I’m doing. Many teachers are more territorial then a mother bear protecting their cub and would not appreciate my intrusion into their den.
"The ink is black, the page is white," wouldn't education be even more wonderful if it was that simple?