Yesterday I had to appear in Juvenile Court to testify against a student who stole from me. I have never been to the Juvenile Courthouse before and I was quite overwhelmed.
So much so, that I began to cry…
I cried because I heard the clanking of chains.
When they brought in the youth defenders who were housed in the detention center, they were all shackled to one another and the clanking noise of the chains made me cry.
I cried because I told the student, the offender, that I had a vision of this type of trouble in his future.
When he was in my class, I told the student, the offender, who was non-compliant, over aged and seeking the thrills of the street that he would get into trouble if he did not change his ways. I told him that to be successful in school he had to follow the rules and fly right. I gave him more chances than I gave others because I knew that he needed it. He didn’t heed any of my warnings and eventually, he was asked to leave.
I cried because I felt the guilt of ‘labeling’ a student a trouble maker. Am I partly to blame?
He got into constant trouble from all of his teachers and he even got into trouble from some teachers who were not his own. I counseled, punished and tried to work with the mother of that student. It made no difference, he continued to do wrong. Did I label him and mark him as a trouble maker. Or did I point out his flaws and weaknesses as a way to get him to do better?
I cried because I felt the need to keep my head down.
I did not want to see who else was in the courthouse for fear that I knew another one of the children scheduled to appear in court.
I cried because the court officers called names like numbers in a meat market.
Don’t they realize that the name belongs to a youngster whose life will never be the same simply because their name was called in the courthouse? They should call the names with more respect.
I cried because I felt guilty that I was in possession of a coveted device and tempted the student.
I felt like it was my fault for having the iPod that was stolen. I cried even harder because I realized that it if it hadn’t been my iPod that day; it would have been something else from someone else another day.
I cried because I was the only one crying.
I seemed to be the only one traumatized by the experience of being in the Juvenile Courthouse. The teens there were joking, playing or sleeping. The moms were telling each other what their child did to be arrested or where to go to have electronic trackers removed. I, on the other hand, could not stop crying. Can I be the only one who sees the seriousness of this? Maybe everyone else is all cried out?
I cried BECAUSE I was crying.
I was angry at myself for blaming myself. I Didn’t Steal Anything From Me. I did nothing wrong and I seemed to be the only one in the courthouse who was upset by it all.
I cried because even as I sat there reading a book, I was planning work for next schoolyear.
I was reading Street Love by Walter Dean Myers and I was thinking that it will be a powerful book to use next year to help the students find and express THEIR VOICES. Even as I waited to testify against a student; I was planning for the next batch of students that I will receive next schoolyear.
Because life goes on…… Students do well. Students do poorly. And then we start all over again next year.
Years ago, I was brought to task when I told an audience that I taught English Language Arts. I was quickly corrected and told that I did not teach English Language Arts; I taught students. The question that day was a trap that I fell into and the speaker used me to remind us that our first priority is to make sure that the students in our rooms leave with … something more than they had when entering our rooms. For some it will be 2-3 grade levels in their reading abilities, others will recognize the need to add details to their writing, some will learn the summarizing techniques need to create a good digital story or they might merely learn that it is disrespectful to raise your voice to an adult.
Each of my kids is different and unique. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. They are
- Mothers and Fathers
- Lazy and complacent
- On house arrest
- Community leaders
- Silly and immature
- Older than their years
- Future Scientists, Lawyers, Teachers, Electricians, Doctors, Plumbers, Hairdressers and Presidents
- Self motivated and driven
They are all different and they all need different things. They are ALL MY KIDS. I cry because I don’t know how to direct them all down the RIGHT PATH. I cry because I want them to know the joys in life and none of the horrors. I honestly don’t know what that student got from me. He was only with me for a few months and all he probably remembers is that I always picked on him. He’s probably saying, “She never liked me” or “She had it out for me.” Neither statement is true. I couldn’t be a teacher if I allowed myself to dislike a student. They are children. Good, Bad or Indifferent, they are kids who need guidance.
I cried because …???… I was and still am HEARTBROKEN because another one of my kids is in the justice system’s database and I couldn’t stop it.
I know that I am not Superman. I am only one person and I can’t change the world