Friday, April 16, 2004

Yesterday

Sorry. Didn't intend to leave anyone hanging. Eventful, like I said. Now, when I write it, it seems like small stuff.

It started at 6:50 am, discovering after waiting for 10 minutes at the new bus stop, that the change of route was only for one day, and the bus was, in fact, at the usual stop. At Union Square, I needed to stop in the supermarket to pick up some lab materials. If you ever notice someone in the checkout line at 7 am buying white vinegar, a box of sugar, plastic cups, sugar cubes, Tums, vegetable oil, and a small coffee, you can be sure it's me, and no, I'm not stocking a new kitchen. Now, the coffee counter at the supermarket is presided over by a middle-aged clerk who has been placed there specifically to slow down people who are about to miss their trains. This is why I normally buy my coffee elsewhere. Yesterday, just after I put all my stuff down on the counter, the clerk noticed a bottle of tonic water belonging to the customer behind me, whom she proceeded to wait on instead of me! Apparently you can now hold yourself a spot in line with carbonated beverages. This would have been okay, except that this woman needed a cup of coffee, a buttered bagel, and a couple of other things rung up. I felt like pulling a New Yorker and punching someone in the nose, but I settled for making grouchy noises and looking at my watch. When I got to school, two seventh grade boys had already had a fight - over cereal, apparently. And a parent was waiting to talk to me about some trouble her son got in the previous day. So I was thinking, man, it's only 8:15 am! What's next?!

I got a lot done, thankfully, since Thursday is the day I have several prep periods (to balance out days like Friday when I have just one). I cleaned my fridge, which was molding, thanks to a fickle outlet plus several spilled science expo projects. I cleaned my desk (it has a surface! who knew?). I graded papers.

After lunch, a boy told me that C. was crying. C. is one of the students on my I'd-Adopt-You-If-Anything-Happened-To-Your-Parents list; she's a good student, down-to-earth, enthusiastic about school, good attitude. I approached her, and she insisted that she wasn't crying. I said, okay, if you want to talk about anything, wait here while I take the class upstairs to Social Studies. She waited for me. She said that at lunch she had told her three best friends that she didn't want to be friends with them anymore. Now, to picture these three girls, imagine the three nicest, smartest, most-conscientious, pretty-but-not-conceited girls you went to school with: that's them. So I thought, C. has nowhere to go but down if she rejects these girls' friendship! We discussed it:

Ms. Frizzle: Why do you not want to be friends with them anymore?

C: (looking at her feet) Because, in elementary school, they did mean things to me.

Ms. F: Like what?

C: Well, K. used to be my friend, but then in fourth grade she made other friends, and she changed. And I told her she changed, and she said she'd change back, but she never did.

Ms. F: Mmm, that's hard. But you've been good friends so far this year, right?

C: Yeah.

Ms. F: Have these girls done anything to bother you in the last few months?

C: Not really, but my mom says when something hurts you, it scars you for life.

Ms. F: Yeah, some things still bother you even after they're over. But it still seems like you four girls get along well. Why did you decide not to be their friend today?

C: (narrates long, complex story about chasing a ball at recess, ending with...) And today, I fell chasing the ball, and they laughed at me.

Ms. F: That's not very nice of them. Do they know that it hurt your feelings?

C: I don't know.

Ms. F: Are you regretting that you told them you didn't want to be their friend anymore?

C: Kind of.

In the end, we decided that she would sleep on it, decide whether she had made the right decision or a mistake, and we could all talk about it during homeroom this morning if need be. By this morning, all was forgotten. She'd spoken to K. on the phone, they'd apologized, and harmony was restored to the universe.

Shortly after that talk, I got to try to sort out another complex friendship drama, involving a seventh grade girl crying and a seventh grade boy who might or might not have called her a boy before or after she hit him after she might or might not have overheard him - or his friends - talking bad about her, which might or might not have happened before, and all this despite the fact that he might or might not have agreed to be her friend earlier that day, and friends just don't say things about each other behind each other's backs. We left that one to sort itself out, too. I said, you can be friends or not be friends, avoid each other if necessary, but please, no more hitting and no more talking about other people behind their backs, and if any of this happens again, please see me or another teacher right away.

Often, these friendship dramas are mysterious to adults. It can be close to impossible to sort out what really happened. Listening, calming down all sides, and letting them hear each other out can go a long way. And then you let them know that if problems continue, they should come to you, and that's usually the end of it. (fingers crossed)

I also found out that I'm losing a sweet little girl from my homeroom, because she needs intensive English services, which we can't provide. We could get in trouble for being out of compliance with her IEP (Individualized Education Plan - basically a plan for providing for her special needs), so she's going to have to transfer from our program to the larger school that we are technically a part of. It's true, we can't provide her the services she needs to learn to read and write well - we tried to hire someone, but no one applied for the job - but I wonder if this transfer will really help her in the long run. She MIGHT get the services she needs, but quite likely at the cost of getting eaten alive at a larger, much-less-safe school, where far less education happens during classtime. We have one or two students who have legally waived their special education rights to stay in our program, deciding that it was a worthwhile trade-off. Right now, we are just too small - we don't have the capacity to provide many special ed services. It's a shame that there isn't a great school out there that has that capacity. Maybe we will, someday.

I guess the biggest event of the day was that we got a call from our Regional Superintendent. Apparently, the mother of a sixth grader has been calling the Regional Office to complain that I pick on her son, and that we won't resolve the issue. Not true! Her son sticks objects in his mouth and up his nose, admits it to me in class, goes home and tells his mother another story, so she calls me. She speaks only at high volume, calls other students in our school wicked and implies that we teachers may be wicked liars ourselves, informs me of her churchgoing ways, reminds me that her son was never in trouble at his old school,* and accuses me of racism. Somehow, this has all spiraled into a situation where she is extremely frustrated with our school, came in and said she wanted to complain formally and remove her son from our school, and has been calling everyone at the R.O. for weeks. On Monday, I'm going to have to attend a meeting with my principal, our superintendent, this parent, and possibly the boy. I know my principal has my back, and I know the superintendent is skeptical, but still, it's making me anxious. I don't want my first real contact with our superintendent to be this situation! No, I don't particularly like her son, and I like her even less, but I do not pick on him. I merely punish him when he sticks screws up his nose, doesn't turn in homework, and tastes lab materials - just like I would any other child.

*Um, no. He got suspended at his old school for throwing the class terrarium out the window, or so says one of his classmates from that school.

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