Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's Going to Be a LONG Year!

We have officially been in school for a month now.  I haven't written anything about it because I can't stand work right now.  My job is exhausting in every capacity.  I question daily how I will keep my sanity until June with this group of fifth graders.  I knew when I accepted the offer last year that it was an especially challenging school, but this group is ridiculous.  Here are some stories from the first month of school:

--Throughout my five years of teaching in Title I schools, students have always brought KoolAid, Fun Dip, and other sugar in plastic bags.  Most of my kids refer to it as "Happy Crack" since it looks like cocaine.  Several students have taken it to a whole new level this year by distributing and selling Happy Crack.  After the principal investigated the situation, several students' roles were revealed as the "runners", "holders", and "watchers" (all of which are drug terms).  We had an emergency grade level meeting after a middle school student in a neighboring county became ill from unknowingly eating Happy Crack that was mixed with bath salts.  As far as we know, our kids are just selling sugar, but we have to take the matter seriously. 

--One of the distributors of Happy Crack lives in a foster home.  Her case worker had to come to school and the police officer kept talking to the student in front of the woman as if it were her mother.  The student was getting increasingly agitated with the officer talking about her "mom".  The student's mother is in jail from drug use.  Go figure...

--One of my girls was crying during math and asked to speak to me privately.  She revealed that the whole grade is spreading rumors that her father rapes her.  Sure enough, my teammate intercepted a note by a boy in his math class that said, "Did you hear about [her name]?  I bet she likes having her dad's dick in her pussy."  (Only the note wasn't spelled correctly, of course.)

--I have had four new students in the last three weeks.  One of my new students has strange emotional outbursts.  I never know what triggers it, but he'll get angry and upset to the point of crying and shaking in the corner with his fists balled up.  I've called his mother about it and she told me to ignore it and he's just trying to get attention.  (Strange, right?)  Thursday afternoon he had another episode and kept punching the wall and cubbies.  I got my phone out to call his mother and he started growling and sobbing.  I walked him to the counselor's office.  He had a severe panic panic attack when I gave him the phone and was literally choking and gasping for air.  It turns out he's being abused.  The counselor is legally obligated to report it to DSS.  She will also pull him for weekly counseling sessions.

--Another new student showed up on my roster.  His behavior was unsettling the first week of school.  I gave the students a writing prompt to think about someone they considered as a role model and to write a paragraph about that person.  He refused.  The social worker later informed me that he and his mother fled from an abusive home as soon as a spot opened at the local shelter.  They left their home in another county in the middle of the night and arrived in my classroom the following day.

--An unmedicated kid with diagnosed ADHD was making fun of a very overweight kid.  The overweight child has mental health issues and is dangerous.  He flipped on the kid.  He pinned him to the ground, put him in a choke hold, and punched his head over and over.  Despite screaming, blowing the whistle, and using all my strength to remove the overweight boy, I could not break up the fight.  No serious injuries occurred.  Both boys were suspended.

--We learned on Friday about a handful of boys that are starting a gang at school.  The boys huddle together behind a fence during recess and try to beat each other up during recess.  Our recess area is actually a community park.  Fifth grade uses two full size baseball fields.  It looks like the boys are playing tackle football. When we go up to check on them, they tell us they were playing rough and break it up.  In reality, the boys are volunteering to be beaten as their "initiation" into the gang. 

--The PTA passed out fundraising packets.  I normally only have a few kids who sell anything at all.  After turning in the order form, one of my kids asked if she could get it back.  I told her they had been turned in and asked what she needed.  She said, "My neighbor ordered two items but the police just took him to jail and my momma doesn't want to pay for him."

--One student has been caught stealing from the "treasure box" twice and the snack box once.  He rides a late bus, which happens to meet in my classroom after school.  He tries to hang back in the classroom when I drop the other students off for dismissal.  (I don't have anything in my room that locks, or I would lock the items up.

--Three of my homeroom students are identified as homeless.  They receive a brown paper bag filled with snacks in the afternoon (peanut butter crackers, applesauce, etc).  The social worker places their bags on my desk and the students know to get them at the end of the day.  I caught a different student stealing fruit snacks from their snack bags.

--We had a real lockdown a few weeks ago.  I knew it was real because we hadn't gone over lockdown procedures during the staff meeting yet so I knew they wouldn't do a drill.  (I later found out there was an armed black male with tattoos wandering around the park.)  The kids all have to go behind my desk and cram in the corner of the classroom away from the doors and cubbies.  My worst behavior problem kept saying, "I got a fart.  Can I let it out?  It's right between my butt cheeks."  This made my immature kids laugh and my mature students irritated.  The principal was walking down the hall, heard the kids, and unlocked the door to tell my class, "The police have called to put us on lockdown.  We are taking care of things, but you must be quiet!" 

--One of my students was clearly very sick.  He is generally loud and rambunctious.  He had his hoodie up and kept falling asleep in class.  He said he was cold, yet he was sweating.  I sent him to the nurse.  He had a "very high fever" and wasn't even allowed back in the classroom to get his bookbag.  His mom picked him up, but sent him to school the next two days, even though he obviously had the flu.  He would walk in the classroom in the morning and lay down on the rug.  I kept sending him right back to the nurse, who sent him home.

How am I supposed to focus on curriculum when my kids are more worried about food, sleep, safety, and gossip?  One day at a time...

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