It was a perfectly normal morning as I dressed and got CDubs ready for school. His cubby legs carried him around the living room as I tried to put together sandwiches, brush my hair, find my purse, oh where was that darn purse?
My husband dashed downstairs, blazer over one arm apologizing, once again, for his late night of video games and his inability to wake that morning.
We rushed to drop of CDubs, and make it to both of our schools with time to visit the copy room and prepare our lessons.
I arrive with 45 minutes till the first bell, and 15 minutes to get make up on for my hallway duty. I dab on some makeup and turn on my laptop. I meet my artistic teacher friend for our shared duty. We stood there poking our noses out, and squinting our eyes at every pant hole, every fashionable blouse. We received a glares and tongue clicks for our scrutiny.
My first three classes went very well, students were using dance and drama to better understand time signatures and dynamics in music. Sixth grade band, bless them, made squeaking and squawking sounds that only small hopeful beginners can make. Or dying birds. Both sets of sounds are entirely natural. Truly, at this point in the year it’s endearing.
Lunch is even completely normal, I serve my duty, meet with parents, try to actually make some sort of progress on my backed up work…
Then 5th grade. Fifth grade is challenging this year. I’ve written up and called many parents already. I’ve had to meet with parents for negative reasons.
My students are wild, they don’t know how to walk down the halls properly. Many of them get mad when I ask simple things of them. Some of this is due to home life, ability, and nerves. I understand that having your music teacher ask you to read a 5th grade texts can be intimidating, especially if you don’t want to admit you can’t read at all. (I am in no way making fun of the students, I am stating true facts. Heartbreaking, sad facts, but unfortunately true.)
But then there is C. C was a transfer from another school. C has been bounced from school to school for years. He or She is excitable, in need of constant attention and ego boosting. He or She demands activities, compares everything I do with past educators , questions rules, ignores consequences, challenges classroom discipline, He or She stirs the pot. A lot. This combined with other personalities makes this class especially challenging.
So when I started class that day, I was honestly relieved C was absent.
I spoke with students about our assignment for the day, and only just finish giving out instructions when I hear a knock at the door. There, C’s homeroom teacher stands with a seemingly subdued C. I am given a reason for his or her tardiness to class and I make the appropriate responses assuring the teacher it was fine C was late. C gives me a mischievous glance and rushes inside to put down his or her backpack.
I encourage the class to continue working, and I try to catch C up on what he or she has missed. C, does not respond but receives the work and listens to the examples .I however can see the need to get up and go simmering just blow the surface. C becomes my helper for the rest of the class, in hopes to keep his or her behavior in check.
I was a fool to think that would help. C interrupts me every time I speak, forgets to raise his or her hand, gets up out of his or her seat multiple times, and is corrected with understanding but firmness from myself every time. Trust me, it was hard, but I know that people tend to jump to conclusions about students to early. I try very hard to give everyone a chance. I try very hard not to decide how a person is before I know them.
Class ends and all students are asked to line up. The students are not to leave my room unless they have a straight line at the door, no one is speaking, and the bell has rung- but I have also given them permission to leave.
So far, the class had not given me any of these things. In my attempts to calm down the class, I notice the line is not straight and ask them to correct this. While students are trying to correct this, another student raises their hand and asks me what will happen if they did not finish their assignment? What it be all right if they turned it in tomorrow? As I’m explaining the answer, another student D is standing next to me quietly listening. Suddenly C yells out, “D hit me!”
I can’t help it, I turned to C, and said quite plainly, that D has been in my line of sight this entire time and has not moved a muscle. There is no way that D has hit him or her. Absolutely no way.
The entire class laughs uproariously at C, causing him or her to shrink in anger. However, I don’t have time for that nonsense and I tell the entire class to stop laughing because it’s wrong.
I know I should make them wait longer, to make a point, but you have to choose your battles. I was not going to win this battle today, so I vowed silently that we would work on lining up another day.
I ask the line leader at the door to exit just as the bell rings. The line leader is talking to several people behind them and does not open the door to leave. This aggravates me, and two or three promptings from me does not get the line leader’s attention. I decide to walk to the front of the line and address the leader myself. I talk to them about how they need to pay attention because the bell has rung, and they are still standing here. Now they have less than three minutes to make it back to class on time.
The line leader apologizes, and opens the door. As the class begins to leave, I hear a frustrated scream and turn around to find C and D beating each other upside the head. I yell for the class to continue out as I survey the students in front of me.
There is absolutely no way for me to stop them. The students are too close. They are hitting one another too hard. If I try to separate them and get into the middle of the fight, not only will I be hurt, but I could hurt them in the process of breaking it up. I yell for them to stop as my next class huddles around the front doorway hoping to see the struggle.
I yell once more for them to stop fighting and take a step closer to the struggling students. I am completely ignored as they continue to beat one another upside the head. I take another step forward and very forcefully yell for them to separate.
C and D finally separate, they are still standing opposite one another, fingers linked. Struggling continues, but with at least a foot and a half of space between each child’s torso.
This is my chance, they are separated enough and their arms are not swinging around. I think I can cleanly get in and separate them without anyone getting hurt.
I approach and place a hand on each student shoulder and gently separate them. I didn’t even push them apart really, I think just feeling my hands upon their shoulders made them realize where they were and what they were doing.
I was ridiculously angry at this point, both students have behaved in an unacceptable manner. I bark out that D must leave the room first, followed by myself, then C may leave the room. D is to walk on the left side of the hallway touching the wall, and C must walk on the right side of the hallway touching the wall. The entire trip to the office I must stand in between them, and if they walk ahead or behind me there will be further repercussions.
“The office?!” They say.
“Oh yes,” I say, “that was definitely fighting. That is a write-up.”
“We were only playing!”
“Yeah we were just playing!
I make a disgusted sound in my throat and tell them to move. I yell at my class that supposed to be in my classroom learning at this point, to line up outside of my room. I ask as nicely as possible for my art teacher friend across the hall to watch my students until I get back.
We three angrily march up to the office. C tries to slip behind me once we pass the fifth grade hall. Perhaps he or she was hoping I would not notice them slipping off to class; however I’m not idiot. The hallway is full and I yell quite loudly at C to return to the right side of the hall beside me. He or she complies and tries to make a case for why this was not a serious altercation.
We make it up to the office to find the secretary gone. I see that both of the waiting chairs in the office are empty, and I say again, quite forcefully for them to just sit down and not to talk while I speak with the principal.
I approach the principal’s office to find it lit and empty. I make my way to the registrar’s office and ask if they know where the principal is. I am then asked to relate to the Registrar, what happened. This takes a couple of minutes to say the least.
The registrar tells me to take the students down to the second in command. We do not have an assistant principal because our school is so small. The second in command happens to be a staff member who works closely with the students but is not teaching students on a daily basis.
The second in command is surrounded by students at this moment .and other staff members. They are obviously busy. Lagging behind me are C and D, but I really don’t have time for this. I rush towards the second in command and very quickly get their attention and explain the situation.
I am rerouted once more towards the ISS room. This is where the students are supposed to end up until it is decided what will happen to them. Protocols however, have changed from just automatically sending them to ISS when there has been trouble.
We once again enter into the hallway, with both students trailing behind me; the fight gone from their tiny bodies. I think they too just wanted this to be over with.
We arrive at ISS and both students lined up outside the door as I force my way into the room. It has been humid lately and some of the older doors in the school have swelled because of this.
The ISS room is packed, there are only two empty desks in a room of at least 25 desks. I apologize and say to the ISS coordinator a quick overview of what happened, the steps it took for me to get there. The coordinator updates me on the new ride up format, and ushers me over to a computer where the new file waits. They upload it to Google Docs and share it with me so I may complete up-to-date write ups.
It’s been at least seven or eight minutes since all of this has happened inside the ISS room, and we realize the students are still in the hallway. The coordinator calls to the students to come in one at a time. Even though The coordinator takes care to keep them separated in this fashion, C and D are forced to sit near one another in the ISS room due to the amount of students.
I make my excuses and leave, I have missed 20 minutes of my 40 minute tutoring period.
I set my tutoring students to the task of completing a smart board game that teaches them to read musical rhythms. Luckily they thought it was a blast and worked diligently on kicking each other’s booties, as I wrote the write ups for each student.
I wait until students are out of the school before I make my phone calls to parents. I really do not want anyone walking in on what I have to tell the parents. There’s nothing like having a student come in, while I explaining the situation and then going back and gossiping to half the county.
At D’s number no one answers. I look up C’s phone number only to discover that C has been removed from my roster. That would’ve been wonderful to know before class started. All of this could have been prevented.
I email the principal and the ISS coordinator that I was unsuccessful in contacting both parents, and I apologize for adding more work to their day. I wish them a good night, clean up my classroom and hop into the car with my husband shows up to take me home.
My husband quickly drops me and my son at home, and then speeds off towards marching band. CDubs and I enjoy a couple of hours of rolling around and playing with blocks and cars and various other things.
After dinner, CDubs decides he wants to nurse, and at the same time my phone is buzzing. I look at the screen and I see a number with the local area code. I ignore it, because of the nature of what I’m doing. I don’t think anything of it when the call goes to voicemail.
Curiosity eventually got the best of me though, and cradling with one arm, I grabbed the phone and listened to the recording:
“Mrs. G I need you to call me back immediately. C has written something alarming in his or her statement about the fight. He or She wrote that you struck him or her multiple times after the fight. Call me back. Tonight we need to talk.”