XXXI: Simple Smiles

These days are the worst.
They’re the days that you turn up the bass and allow the beat to resonate in your soul, drowning out the reality that you find yourself drowning in.

Do I have your attention yet?

It’s been an eventful week in the school system, I’ve witnessed a lockdown (for the first time in a very long time), and even got to watch some very dramatic events churn about today in the classroom I was in. Granted, I’m not going into detail about any of the events or the specific names of individuals for about five million different legal and liability reasons, but I can assure you of this…after this afternoon I completely hate these days.

I had a student that was escorted into the last period of the day via administration, anyone can tell you that, that is never a good omen for anyone…including the instructor. The student was irate upon entering the room. Imagine a zoo keeper placing you in a tiger cage, without the tiger, and then taking a very hungry tiger and allowing them into said cage. Topping it off, they slap you in the face with a raw steak. That’s what this was like.

Trying to think of the rest of the class, and even thinking back to classes I had in college I tried my best to defuse whatever I could. The student stepped up to my desk, and I asked where they had been. Due to their anger (and age) I was blasted with a profanity laced statement including the name of administrative individuals in the building. “The immediate reaction”, I thought in my head, “is to send them to the office for the profanity.” However, I thought back to when I was their age, and came into class fuming. The office would have been of no value to any behavioral conditions, especially if I had just came to class via the office.

Instead, I explained to the student that I could tell something was going down outside of the classroom. I didn’t ask for details because I didn’t want to know, and it wasn’t my position to know. All I asked from them is that they would take their blood pressure down about twenty beats per minute, and to work on their assignment for this class. Of course I received the, “Sure, whatever.” comment expected froma ny adolenscent at this point in their life, but they did go to their seat and started working.

That’s when I had this insane, devilish thought…

I’m going to find a way to make them smile.

I left the student alone for quite some time, just observing but not engaging. They spoke with their classmates about the drama outside, but also worked on their work. If they’re doing their work it’s rather hard to get on their case about being distracted. Eventually, upon finishing, they began to wander around the classroom, looking out the windows, and became a bit restless.

That’s when they stepped over to my desk, and out of the blue, started talking about the problem that they were associated with. It was sad, frustrating, and unfortunately not overly uncommon within many schools within the United States education system. I looked at them, after they had finished ‘preparing their case’, and I told them that when I was in high school I was suspended because I didn’t think before I said something out loud (or in my specific case, wrote something). Making the common ground immediately perked their interest. They didn’t ask for details, but they immediately recognized that I made mistakes in my past, and that they weren’t something I wore around like bragging rights. I followed that story up by making one simple suggestion:

No matter what happens. No matter the circumstance, your best defense for anything that takes place will be to be completely honest. If you tell the 100% truth, someone in the proper position will listen and believe you.

Yes, that’s a pretty cheesy thought for the day, but for some reason it worked. Because in the thirty second time span they looked at me, with a smile, and simply said, “Thanks”, and went back to their chair.

Why do I hate days like today?

Because of those stories. Because recognizing that educators are forced to spend so much time wringing their hands over curriculum expectations that they aren’t given the appropriate time to actually establish connections and trust with their students.

I hate it because those moments, just like last year with an entire grade of rough students, are ongoing reminders of how nice it would be to be in the classroom, and with that the reminder that I can’t actually see why a district would actually want to hire me full time to teach.

There’s never a place on applications where you can write, “Because I like watching kids smile…”


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