I knew when I took this job that it would come with some of the natural challenges involved in teaching in a low-income school. MIA parents, disorganized students, forgotten homework, missing lunches, kids who are behind because no one read to them at home as a young child, mouthy kids who don't know how to talk to adults because they have no role models, and kids who are just starving for attention and who seek it in any way posible. I've seen it all already, but I have to say there are so many things I love about this population regardless. Anyways, today I was presented with two other realities of where I teach:
1. This one isn't sad or tragic or heart wrenching, it's just annoying and frustrating. So today I came out of the house and my dad asked me what happened to my car. "What now..." I thought, remembering how my mom had accidentally backed into it in the driveway last year. Did that happen again? Nope, it turns out my car was KEYED and now has a beautiful little swastika and F-bomb etched into the trunk. Sweet. Since my car hasn't left my driveway since Friday, I'm assuming this happened in the school parking lot on one of my marathon nights last week (probably Friday) and I just didn't notice. While it's possible it happened in my driveway, I'd say the odds are stacked in favor of the teenagers who tend to loiter in the school parking lot at night. Sooo...yeah, that's fun. I hope that anyone who notices it will see the autism ribbon on the back of my car and the cross dangling from my mirror and assume that a person who would choose to display those things wouldn't pusposefully have carved profanity and white supremisist symbols into her car. The good: they're small, not immediately noticeable, my dad attempted to cover them, and I'm hoping to get a new car in about a year anyways (maybe sooner...). The bad: I'm a little freaked out about staying late at school now and just plain pissed off.
2. Much, much, much worse and makes me feel ashamed that I even just complained about my car. Of course anyone who goes into teaching knows the drill: child abuse is real, it happens, and it's tragic. Not only that, but we as teachers are legally required to report any and all suspect child abuse. Simple, right? Well, today I found out that a student of my friend, another young teacher at my school, stole something from another teacher Thursday afternoon. She was yelled at and her father was contacted by that teacher. Friday morning when she came in, she didn't want to take off her coat. When she did, she was so covered in bruises that her arms were actually swollen. It turned out her legs were covered too, and she was actually taken to the hospital. Of course, the standard protocol was followed: DCFS was called, the father was arrested, the child was brought to her mother's house. Hearing this story today made things seem very real.
This is one of those things that as a teacher you know in theory you might have to deal with, but you never really think you will. Then, when you hear a story about it, you pray like hell none of your students ever experience that, and that you never have to handle that. Because the truth is, when you sign up to be a teacher, you sign up for a whole lot more. Even the students who sometimes I really think I hate I am emotionally invested in. And to think that when they leave us at 3:00 some of them might go home to parents who hurt them or neglect them or just plain aren't around is something that none of us ever want to imagine. Because should something like this happen, we know it will just leave us thinking, "Was there something I could have done to prevent this? How could I have allowed this to happen?" even though we know that the very thought is ridiculous. And the truth is, school may end at 3:00 but our minds never turn off--we are teachers 24/7 and we bring our work home: the papers to grade, the lessons to plan, and the kids who we lay awake at night worrying about. Tonight that child will not be one of my students, but my friend's student. I will be laying awake praying for her, praying that my own students are safe, and praying for my friend, her teacher, hoping that she will be able to sleep tonight.