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A rough day

After a particularly rough day last month, I sat down and wrote out the events of the day to help me decompress. I saved my thoughts, and since I'm posting to my blog now, I thought I would share them with you. The day was October 18th...


Today was brutal. Here are the memorable events from the day, which are on top of the usual challenges of teaching my kids:

    Sophomores are taking the PSAT today, so we had a modified schedule from hell. First block was 3 hours and 15 minutes. Second block (my prep/free period during which I get organized and eat lunch) was skipped today. Third block was 40 minutes. Fourth block was 60 minutes. I have no idea how the relative timing of the blocks was determined, but the I might make the observation that keeping high school students in one class for 3+ hours is insane.
    One of my students skipped detention yesterday. Today, she came to class late and sat down to read a book. That's better than normal when she's constantly talking to other students and talking back to me. I sent her to the office because she missed detention, and she was suspended pending a parent conference. I saw her on campus later in the day and she stuck her tongue out at me.
    A student who is the daughter of a teacher at the school is at risk of being kicked out of the school. Basically, the only way I can get her to behave (let alone actually work) is to threaten to send her to the office (which will result in her being thrown out of the whole school). She informed me that I "needed" to get her copies of all the assignments she had failed to turn in over the last few weeks. I told her that I couldn't take care of it until after class. She said that she couldn't stay after class (she had to meet a friend). I told her that if she wasn't willing to give me the time investment to stay after class for 5 minutes, I wasn't going to invest the time to help her with make up work.
    A police officer came into my class looking for a student, who happened to be absent today. This event is not out of the ordinary, but is always a bit stressful.
    All electronic devices such as pagers, cell phones, MP3 players, etc., are strictly forbidden on our campus. They are to be confiscated immediately if a teacher even sees the device. One of my students was charging his phone in an outlet near his seat and then proceeded to text message. I noticed this and asked him to hand over his cell phone. He refused to turn over his phone, so I called campus security (the standard practice). A police officer showed up and the kid spontaneously dumped out the contents of all his pockets on the floor and claimed that he had no phone (though he did have a phone charger). I have no idea where he put the phone -- perhaps in his underwear or in the trash. The police officer searched him and then took him to the office anyways. They confiscated his phone's charger instead, but I have no idea where the phone is.
    One of my students is a special ed student, which means she has a caseworker assigned to look after her. Both the caseworker and the student showed up to my classroom to get a report on the student's progress in the class. I told them that she had been one of the top students in my class a few weeks ago. The caseworker said, "I don't believe it." I assured her that the girl's work was really high quality and I could show it to her if she didn't believe us. I mentioned that her work was suffering in the last two weeks. The caseworker informed me that the students' boyfriend was shot a couple of weeks ago and was currently in a wheelchair.
    One of my students had to leave early yesterday. Her sister came by crying and said someone in the family was hurt. I let the student go (after which everyone else in the class said, "Why does she get to go early?"). I talked with her today and she told me that everything was OK. "My aunt got shot a little in the chin. Then the guy went around shooting up the neighborhood. But everything is OK. Thanks for checking up."
    The vice principal delivered another student to my class a bit late. This is a student who had half a dozen instances of drug use on campus last year and has been in Juvenile hall 5 times. He currently is on parole and wears a GPS ankle bracelet. I talked with him a few days ago about his grade, which is a low F. I asked him why he never brings his backpack to class and he told me that he can't get a backpack because his parole requires him to go directly between school and home, and the GPS tracking system enforces this. Talking with the vice principal about him at the end of the day, I found out that he spent an hour and a half in her office. The first 20 minutes were fine, but he apparently broke down crying for the next hour plus. His father was shot and killed last year. His mother is nowhere to be seen. He lives with his grandmother, who has had 3 strokes recently and is asleep whenever he is at home. His aunt takes care of her during the day, but leaves each night to go to work. He is alone in the house with no homework and nobody to talk with.
    To cap off the day, I mentioned to the vice principal that I was having trouble getting a hold of one student's parents to tell them about his behavior problems. She has access to more phone numbers and started dialing all of them. The mother finally answered at work. She was apologetic that her son was misbehaving and said that there was no excuse for that. However, she was worried that my class at the end of the day was too much for him because of his bone cancer, which had no spread to his lungs and the back of his head. He won't be in class tomorrow because he's starting radiation treatment. I guess that explains why his focus on academics is a little weak.

Looking back on the day now, it was a definite low point. Most days aren't like that at all, but they do happen and I think my notes kind of capture how drained I feel when they do...

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