I was a little surprised to see Michael back in school this morning. I found out that our school has a “no suspension” policy for Kindergarten through 2nd grade, with the exception of bringing a weapon to school. That’s one of the few policies I actually agree with.
I didn’t hear anything about a disciplinary hearing or anything. I guess the only real experience I have with fighting was from when I was in school. I once got into a fight with a girl over a boy in sixth grade and we were both suspended for 3 days.
Today in science we were discussing parts of the body and to describe the points of the body that bend, I used the term joint. Nearly the entire class started to giggle at that word. I’m fairly certain the children that weren’t giggling were just more mature. But it makes me sad that a group of 7- and 8-year olds are so aware of drugs. Not that marijuana is all that taboo.
But speaking of drugs, I remember during one of our staff members complaining that her kids have to walk past a group of “street vendors” on the corner down from our school. I’m realizing now that those are drug dealers.
I also had to deal with the uncomfortable gossip surrounding Michael’s fight. By this morning every student had heard about yesterday and each of my student was trying to get Michael’s version of what went down. As I was trying to get everyone settled down and start their morning work, I had to tell my class to leave Michael alone.
And as children were backing off from him another of my students said, “He gonna get got, Yo! He gonna get smoked.”
I was torn between ignoring that incredibly augural comment or addressing it and I chose the latter.
“I’m sorry Danté, are you saying that somebody should be shot? Because that would be the worst possible thing that you could say.”
I really thought my tone was strong enough to end it there, but Danté stood his ground.
“Man, you don’t what it’s like here. You’re not from here. That’s what’s gonna go down.”
And then other students supported Danté on his hood rat soapbox.
“He right, dat true, dat true. Dey get one of yours, you get one of dere’s. Dats the way it is.”
I admit that I was in over my head and out of my element, but I was curious. My students are probably the best people to tell me what it’s really like on the “streets.”
So I replied, “I don’t understand. Are you guys all part of a gang or something?”
And they laughed at me. The whole class was giggling at me, the ignorant white girl.
Danté continued. “Nah, it ain’t a gang thing. It’s a… a… crew thing.”
The class agreed on this phrasing. He explains:
“It’s like, there’s people you run with, and there’s people you don’t run with. The people you hang with, the people your run with, that’s your crew.”
I guess now that the conversation was started I might as well get more information.
I asked, “Raise your hand if you know someone whose been shot.”
About half of the class raised their hands. And eerily, they were all completely engaged and being polite.
Then I asked, “How many of you know somebody that’s either in jail or has been to jail.”
The same half the class raised their hands plus a few more students. And a couple of them kept their hands up and said my name asking to speak. I let a few of them share their stories. A couple of them talked about how their dad’s in jail or they moved because there was a shooting by their building. Another student claimed that Derrick Rose was her cousin.
I eventually had to get class moving again, but I think this might have been a bonding moment between me and my students.
I didn’t have any illusions about my students’ home lives. I wouldn’t be surprised if their parents were engaged in criminal activities, but I also don’t want to stereotype. I’m sure my students lives are similar to my own childhood in some ways.
But I think it would be good for me to ask more about my students’ home lives. It would be nice to know who’s raising them. I know that Tyrese’s mom works as a telemarketer and sometimes puts in extra hours in the evenings because she’s the only parent that I’ve actually talked to.
That’s going to change, however. Tomorrow’s the last day of the week for students. We have parent-teacher conferences tomorrow after school and Thursday is an institute day and more conferences. Friday is Veteran’s Day.
I sent home a reminder with the students and told parents to call or email me if they wanted to come in. I’ve only gotten 6 responses so far. I have 2 conferences after school on Wednesday and four Thursday morning. Students will most likely be attending.