Saturday, November 20, 2004
Grief and Mourning
At heart, I am a teacher. Because of the blows dealt to me by my reproductive system in the past year, I felt it best to stop teaching until this situation is dealt with in some form. I need to get to the point of feeling resolution in order to deal with the kids I so deeply love. Or rather, to deal with their parents and with the circumstances these families live with.
I teach in a city district. A city filled with gangs, drugs and violence. The problems are astronomical when compared to the actual population of the city. And today has been a strange one.
I was in the grocery store and bumped into the father of a student I had last year. I know this man well because his son is extremely gifted. And a huge pain in the ass. He constantly got in fights, was annoying as all hell (to me and the rest of the class). He's in middle school this year. Sixth grade. He's in a building with roughly 900 kids. But this year, at my recommendation, he is in the accelerated program. He may actually be able to be challenged! Which could have a serious positive impact on his behavior. His dad said he's doing well and likes it. I'm thrilled. I'd been really worried about him.
Then tonight my husband looked at the newspaper and came across a name. He said, "Didn't you have this kid in class once?" And I had. When I started teaching in the district, I was doing a long-term substitute position teaching 7th grade life science. I'm still in shock over the article in the newspaper.
One of the sweetest, funniest boys, athletic, attractive, kind, an all around good kid was stabbed Thursday night. He was unresponsive when the ambulance arrived and died in one of the local hospitals within minutes of arrival. Reggie was one of my favorites at the time I taught him, but I haven't seen him since December 2000. He was so full of life and promise. I remember once I gave him detention for talking too much in class. He "forgot" to come up to my classroom after school. I happened to be meeting my husband in the parking lot to help bring in some things, and saw my student. And I made him come upstairs. He and his friend followed us upstairs. My husband quietly watched as this 13 year old checked out my ass, nudged his friend and whispered "DAMN!" And then he became embarrassed in that cute way that little boys have when they've been caught and refused to look at my husband for the rest of the afternoon. The rest of the time I taught in that building, Reggie made it his mission to keep the rest of the class quiet when I was teaching. He was an amazing boy. And he and his friends continued to volunteer to help out whenever he could after school. But now? He's gone. And I don't understand it. I don't understand how this could happen.
This is the second of my students to die. Both of them this year. I taught both of them the same year. John was a pain in the ass. He had issues with authority, he lied frequently, he was the child that you look at and know that something bad is in store for their future. Or maybe I felt that way because his mother's response to my calls home requesting her intervention to help save her child from the path I could clearly see in front of him was less than acceptable. She actually said, "Yeah, I can't do nothin' with him. He just don't like women. Deal with it." He died while skipping school, drunk, in a stolen car driven by a friend who attended an alternative school for disciplinary reasons. The car crashed and John and another passenger died. The driver, of course, survived.
All in all, it's been a pretty bad year, filled with heartache. And tonight, I mourn the loss of yet another child who did not have to die.
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