Sunday, August 27, 2006

A NEW YEAR 2006-2007


At times I fondly remember the two weeks I escaped to summer camp in the sixties. A true summer camp unlike the summer camp I experienced in the late sixties by invitation of the U.S. government. The two camps had much in common; e.g., heat, insects, long hikes, rifles, and inexperienced leaders. What they did not have in common were the goals of making winners from the participants. My counselors-in-training believed in competition. The teams were taught that competition was good and losing was not. If it was target shooting, hiking, horseback riding, pie eating, basketball, or being the first up in the morning, competition was good. The camp was based on the Camelot theme, which I understood was a love story and a triumph of good over evil. The leaders at the government camp believed lies, deception, inflated numbers, and the lack of a will to win was the course. But, enough of the trip down memory lane and onto summer camp 2006.

My guys, male and female included, experience a summer camp that I could not have related to as a child. Their camps are the streets of the ‘hood. Their friends come and go from various arrests, dealers deal, parents continue to try to survive, often losing track of their children on a daily basis. Fights that occurred over the summer break from high school often are not resolved and the animosity carries on to the school campus. New gang alliances are formed but short lived. Students in state’s custody are transferred into foster homes far from their families and friends. Of course these transferees have to establish their turf and reputations. Couple this with an increased student population from an over-crowded 1745 students to a really over-crowded 2300 students and a melting pot of testosterone driven educational conflicts sets the stage for the first week of school.

My first three expulsions consisted of two returnees from the previous year and one recently relocated state's custody student. All three were zero toleranced, with one being a product of a knee jerk domino theory of educational discipline. I see the sadness in losing this student for the school year, but I also see the humor in the circumstances. Briefly, I hope, the story goes like this; the student was happily adjusting to a new school year in English II. In short order he and the second year, newly married teacher exchanged differences on what he should do in class. He finally told her “This is all bullshit!” She informed him he was to leave the class and report to the sophomore principal. Before leaving the classroom he picked up an imaginary shotgun, cocked it, pointed it toward the teacher, and pulled the make believe trigger, exclaiming, “Bang!”

There were several courses the teacher had to address the situation. The one chosen by her would not generally be considered as an option; she called her mother. Not being privy to the conversation I can only assume she was scared and conveyed this fear to her mother. Mom being very good friends with the county sheriff called him to pass on her daughter’s fear about this student. He in turn called his friend, the school superintendent. The superintendent not interested in having any irate parent complaining in his office or to another government official’s office called the school principal. The principal’s last desire is to have any parent or the superintendent making waves so he in turned called an assistant principal. This principal was not in charge of the student, but quickly gathered the School Resource Officer, that happens to be the son of the sheriff and both of them converged on the office of the principal of the sophomore class. The result of this meeting was a campus all-points-bulletin search for the student. This two-hour search resulted in the knowledge that the student had gone home and was fast asleep in his room.

The result of the circle of authority was the child being banished to the county alternative school. I know this child well and he couldn’t care less which school he is assigned to, he attends when he wants to. His parents long ago resolved he could raise himself. This should result in an identical success story of their older son. That would be the son currently serving seven-and-a-half to fifteen for breaking and entering. My student worships his older brother.

The younger of the remaining two students only cursed a teacher and walked upon that teacher with a closed fist. A zero tolerance for threatening a teacher was the result. The reality of the situation was that his gang leader had been found living out of zone and was transferred to the correct school allowing this student to step-up and be a leader. This is a game played by many principals in an attempt to rid their schools of undesirables. (Check Mate!)

The last student committed the most serious offense. He was bumped in a breakfast line before school. A crime committed by a member of one of the most notorious gangs in any school, the band. This band member further enraged the student by apologizing, which resulted in the band member being attacked from behind. The band member and the state’s custody student both had to go to the hospital, the band member from the injuries inflicted from the beating and my student from a broken hand.

Oh, did I mention that only one of these three students is a special education student? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…………….

This is only week one of the 2006-2007 school year and already the lessons from summer camp are being transplanted to school. I look forward to week two and the chaos that accompanies my teaching position.

I miss camp.