Monday, January 28, 2008

It's not always fun

Mrs. Holly strolled into my office one morning with a little friend in tow. Her always bright smile and friendly demeanor seemed a little forced. Her eyes were wide as she calmly said, “T says he got a hair cut last night.”

Now Mrs. Holly was our specialist for teaching students with emotional disabilities. And the little boy with her was usually in some kind of trouble in the classroom.

We all sat down and I took a good look at the child. He looked up at me expectantly. “T, what a nice hair…cut.” His hair was trimmed, but…wait. What? There, all the way around his head, was a finely edged one-eighth inch wide cut into his scalp!

I stared at this, just trying to comprehend what I was seeing. I looked at Mrs. Holly; I had this intense urge to scream. “Who did this to him!!?” Her eyes held mine steadily as she went on.

“T tells me his uncle cut his hair because he was naughty.”

I followed her lead, checked the note of hysteria in my voice, and asked T who had cut his hair.

In his little first grade, front-teeth-missing lisp, he replied, “My uncle cutted my hair, and it hurted.”

Could this be right? We continued our discussion of the previous evening and the horror continued. The chaotic scene T described was at times unbelievable mayhem of aunts, uncles, mom, cousins coming and going and saying nonsensical things, and sometimes just confused childish story telling. I really couldn’t get a grip on what had actually happened.

All I knew is that SOMEONE had CUT THIS CHILD’S HEAD!

What could we do but report it to social services? Mrs. Holly called mom, but of course, could not reach her. Or ANY of the names or phone numbers on his emergency contact list. This was the 16th time my school had called social services on this family.

Two weeks later, I received a response. “No evidence of child neglect or abuse. Claim unfounded.”

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I swear this really happened!

I remember in my youth the frustration of losing my stuff. You know, like my mittens, my pencils, my book bag. It happened with such frequency that my mother claims my standard excuses for nearly everything in my life were “I don’t know” and “I forgot.”

Then why is it that today’s youth never lose anything? At least from my perspective. Instead of “I don’t know,” the standard excuse seems to be, “Someone stole my.”

As in, “Someone stole my math book.” “Someone stole my pencil.” “Someone stole my lunch.” I’m forever solving these little mysteries by checking the victim’s backpack, desk, even pockets. It’s usually pretty easy. (By the way, I never experienced a truly stolen math book.)

But one day the mystery was a real conundrum. As I was in the hallway shooing 800 middle schoolers into their classes, one little 6th grader limps toward me from the direction of the gym with obvious (exaggerated?) pain and anxiety. I put on my sympathy and caring face.

Thinking he's been injured in a particularly raucous game of basketball, I ask, “What happened? Are you all right?”

“I hurt my leg and the office gave me some ice to put on it.”

“Did that help?”

“Yeah, but now it hurts again, because someone stole my ice!”

“Did you see who took your ice?”


“Well, where was your ice when someone took it? If you were holding it on your leg at the time, I’m thinking you may have seen this person."

“No. Before I went to gym, I put the ice in my locker.”

Didn’t you need your ice anymore?”

“No, I didn’t know where to put it when I was playing ball. So I put it in my locker. When I came back after gym class, it was gone.”

“So, let me get this straight. You hurt your leg earlier this morning, put ice on it, and then put the ice in your locker so you could participate in gym class. Your leg didn’t bother you enough to sit out of the ball game, but now you need your ice again.”

“Right.” At least he had the sense to look a little bit sheepish.

“Show me your locker. You know there’s a deadbolt on the locker, right? Did you share your combination with anyone? No? Then if no one else knows your locker combination, the only way someone could get into it is to damage the locker. I can usually tell because it will be all bent up.”

Together we inspect the outside of the locker. Not too surprisingly, it was all intact.

“Open your locker and show me where your ice was.”

He seems pleased at this, as though happy someone is finally taking his case seriously.

Locker open, he says, “I put it on the top shelf! And now it’s gone!”

I peer into the locker. “Was your ice in a little baggie?”

“Yes!” Happy we’ve found evidence!

“This one with all the water dripping out of it?” I pick up the wet baggie from the spill of water from the top shelf of his locker and hold it up for him to see. "Do you think it's possible your ice wasn't stolen? That just maybe, it...melted?"

On his face: recognition! And then confusion. And then genuine, painful sheepishness.

“I guess we don’t need to fill out that theft report. Go to class.”

Limp miraculously disappeared, he slumps off to class.

Really, I felt sorry for him at the time. Middle school is rough.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Someone wrote on the bathroom wall!

So little 7-year-old Veronica comes into my office on a serious mission.

"Someone wrote on the girls bathroom wall," she tattles.

"Oh, my," I say. "We'd better have a look."

She takes my hand and we walk across the hall to the scene of the crime. Ewww...she's got something sticky on her hand. It's pink, and now it's on me.

As I grab a paper towel, I look at her. She's got pink hands, a pink smudge on her white uniform shirt, and a suspicious pink smear on her face.

Her pink little hand points to the bathroom wall, where, finger-paint style in pink ink is splashed "I love Jose" with a big heart around it.

I investigate by inspecting the ink. "Hmm, it's still wet. That must mean someone did this very recently. Was anyone else in the bathroom when you came in?"

"No, but my friend Tamika saw it, too!" Very serious.

We walk down the hallway to her classroom to question the other witness. Tamika is anxious to tell me what she saw. She has a big pink stain on her uniform shirt. "Someone wrote on the bathroom wall!"

"Do you know who did this?"

"No, but I think someone broke Veronica's pen." I notice the remains of said pen still attached to the chain around Veronica's neck.

"We'll need to keep a lookout for the anonymous writer," I say half to the children and half to the teacher, Miss S. She shoots me a knowing smile and an appropriate look of concern to the girls.

As I step out the classroom door, I look at the little paper stars with all the children's names attached to it. Interesting. There is one labeled, "Jose."

I'm such a good investigator.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Your kids are angels

Hi. I'm Jodi. My husband, Curt, and I have been teaching your kids collectively for about 30 years. They're angels come into our lives to inspire, teach, and humble. Seems like just yesterday when I landed my first faculty position at St. Mary's.

I'll never forget that first day, standing before a group of 36 sixth graders with all my knowledge, skill, hopes and dreams finally converging at this moment in time. I'd arrived. I was prepared.

I was without a prayer. Literally.

J: We always start with a prayer. (How could I forget this? I'm sorry, dad, for all those Catholic school tuition dollars spent to end in this disgraceful moment.)

Me: Oh, yes. Let's all stand for a prayer.

We all stood, made the sign of the cross, and then everything logical passed right out of my head. I think I was starting to hyperventilate because the room was spinning. All I could see were those 36 pairs of hands all (well, most) perfectly folded squiggling across my field of vision.

And that long, expectant silence. Jodi, just breathe. Don't pass out. Don't pass out. That would be so embarrassing! Just Don't pass out.

And then in a small, sweet voice, J began to pray. Thirty-five other voices joined hers in what was a most beutiful sound! I took that breath, looked up and saw my first group of 36 angels.