Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Darker Side of Teaching

This morning as I crossed the parking lot to enter my school, I heard a woman's voice scream, "Get the f* out of my car!"  I turned around in time to see a female student--an eighth grader--stumble out, as if pushed.  The driver took off.  I ran up to the girl and asked her if she was okay.  She was holding the side of her head and crying.  She said she was fine.  I asked her what had happened, and she said her mom had yanked her hair, screamed at her, and pushed her out of the car. 

In moments like this, it's hard to stay calm.  Being a mom, I understand how easy it is to feel angry at your child--especially when he or she reaches those hormonal teenage years.  No parent is perfect, and we have all said things and done things that we are ashamed of.  But even in my worst moments, I have never screamed at my child.  Never.  I can be pretty cold when I'm upset, but the way this mother screamed at her daughter, and the words that came out of her mouth--it's just...mind-blowing.  Not to mention the physical assault on her daughter.  My God.  I just don't get it.

At any rate, I introduced myself to the girl, and we talked.  I asked her if this type of behavior happens often.  She said yes.  I asked her if she had reported it to the counseling department, and she said that she had once before, but she didn't know if they believed her.  So of course I reported this incident to admin. and the counseling department.  Later I filled out a mandated-report for CPS.  Thankfully, about an hour after the incident, the school received a phone call from a parent who had also witnessed this same incident taking place.  I felt relieved that there was someone else out there who could corroborate what I had witnessed.  Despite everything, it's not my goal to get the girl removed from her home.  I just want this incident to be investigated; I want the mother to get the help she needs, and I want this student to be safe.  CPS can decide how to make these things happen.

This incident gnawed at me all morning.  I hate it that some kids are growing up in a household where they are never given a chance to experience the warmth of a loving family.  And I know similar things are happening to students in my own classroom, but unlike today's parking lot issue, such incidences are conveniently tucked away behind closed doors.  Year-after-year I get the painfully shy student, or the student starving for attention, or the emotionally disturbed student...how many of these students are entering my classroom after enduring a morning of screaming--or worse?

On the other end of that, I feel so grateful that my own kids were born to ME.  I might not be Mom of the Year (wow is that an understatement), but my kids have zero doubt they are valued and loved.