Friday, January 27, 2012

What Do I Have in My Pocketses?

Several years I worked with a third grade student named Enrico Jimenez.  Enrico was a short chubby kid who wore a puffy winter coat that made him look like an almost perfect sphere.  Every day he would see me and ask, "Hey, can I show you something?"  The items that emerged from the jacket never ceased to amaze me.  Everything from rubber lizards to party favors would be yanked out of one of his pockets once I'd given my (slightly nervous) permission to share.  I had spoken to his father on a few occasions who insisted that they had taken everything away from him because of bad behavior and he had no idea where these things came from (which only amused me more). 

One of my favorites was when Enrico asked me one morning if had problems with my dry wall (a slightly odd question from a third grader to put it mildly).  Before I could answer he said, "cause if you do, call these guys" and from his winter jacket he produced a business card for some dry wall guy; the card being held up for me to take between his pointer and middle finger like a used car salesman.

Unfortunately, Enrico didn't have a very happy life.  His mom wasn't in the picture and his father had just been released from prison.  Enrico would have emotional breakdowns which included violent unmanageable tantrums.  He would cry and scream for hours, throw things, and try to run out of the school.  This eventually led to his being placed in an ED/BD classroom which only made his outbursts more frequents (and more accepted...). 

Eventually, I had to bring his father in to talk about these behaviors.  When he came in, he very politely told me that he saw all the same problems at home and didn't know what to do with him.  He went on to say that he had just got out of prison, was trying to get his own life back on track, had just got a job, and could not be bothered with phone calls from the school & requests to come in to meet with staff.  Enrico's dad let me know that he had nothing to offer by way of suggestions, and that while he was at school he was our problem.  If we had to suspend him, expel him, etc., he understood but to please not bother him anymore.  He then shook my hand and left.   

We were left with an emotional time bomb and little resources to manage his breakdowns other than punishment.  His teacher was wonderful and loved him, but with other students was limited in terms of how much she could help him let alone teach him.

At least Enrico's dad was honest.  "He's your problem." In so many instances the parents give the impression they care when they don't, or perhaps defend behaviors blindly while driving a wedge between the school and home. 

These complicated situations are becoming more and more common. There are no obvious solutions (maybe no solutions at all...).  Standardized tests do not accurately reflect the effort and quality of work a teacher puts in with a child like this, nor does it accurately reflect the child's progress.  Yet at year's end, this teacher would be considered, on paper, to have failed Enrico.  This is unfair.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Don't You Take A Picture? It'll Last Longer!

I was staying late to help supervise a basketball game.  I had the walkie-talkie, so apparently I was in charge.  Carl, our night custodian, came to find me and had something serious he need to bring to my attention.  Carl is pretty much Otto the bus driver on The Simpson's.  He's got a long curly mullet, a great porno stache', wears an old school cassette Walkman while working in the evening, and over holiday breaks utilizes the building's PA system to crank early era Van Halen tapes throughout the school while he cleans.  I can't say for certain, but I don't think Carl owned anything (shirts or pants) that wasn't made of denim.

He tells me he needs to show me something and quietly ushers me away from the gymnasium down a hall near student classrooms.  At this time of night, this whole area of the building is empty.  We reach one of the student bathrooms and Carl reaches down to his massive key ring to unlock the door.  There must have been 400 keys on that ring.  How he even walked straight let along exactly which key to use on the first try is one of the great wonders of the world. 

Preparing to head inside the walls of a junior high bathroom, I was ready for anything.  Gang graffiti was my prediction, or maybe some profane message about a teacher.  Once the door was about an inch open though, I knew exactly what area we were working within.

The odor of human shit punched me the face like a boxer who'd dropped his gloves.  Carl entered the same as if were entering the daisy section of the flower shop.  The bathroom as this school had a think wooden door, no windows, and no vents.  Further, it was winter so the heat was cooking the smell inside this confined box.

Carl led me into the john and down to one of the stalls.  When we got to the booth of interest, he pushed open the stall door like he was holding open the door for a beautiful woman.  "Take a look at that man." There on the floor was the largest piece of human shit I had ever laid eyes on.  This thing was the size of a boot.  While I felt bad knowing Carl was going to have to clean this up, he was clearly also impressed by this anonymous individuals work. 

"What do you want me do here?" asked Carl.  He seemed to be treating this situation like something that he believed should eventually involve other tax paying branches professionals.  "Clean it up?" I stammered, phrasing it almost as a question.  My eyes were begin to really water and I couldn't help but wonder if I was beginning to look like the bad guy at the end of Raiders Of The Ark.  Then he hit me with it.  He gestured with his hand toward the turn and confidently suggested, "Well you want me to get a picture of it to show the principal tomorrow?"

Everything was pretty much above my pay grade with the teacher's salary I was making at the time, but I threw caution to the wind and made an administrative decision that my boss would not want a glossy of this cinder block sized after dinner creation while he drank his morning coffee.  "No that's okay Carl.  I'll just tell him about it.  Thank you."  I had to get out of this bathroom.  My cloths would already have to be burned.  I'd been in there less than 90 seconds.  "Okay," said Carl "big one isn't it?" he said with a nod in the direction of the mighty poo.  Most certainly.