Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Still Unofficially Mine

Even though today was an off day.
Even though he was repeatedly disrespectful to my para, who none of my kids dare disrespect.
Even though he fought with kids, even my kids, during recess.
Even though he broke stuff in my APs office (where he was sent when he fought during recess.)
Even though he refused to work, or do anything, when I left for my prep, and in fact chased me down the hall and stared at me through the window, demanding with his eyes that I return to the room.
It broke my heart to see the old Loucchie and know that our relationship was not yet deep enough for me to pull him out of what ever monster had a hold of him. "DON'T TOUCH ME, DON'T TOUCH ME!" he screamed. The rest of my kids would have wept in my arms. But this is not June for us. It's September. And in September they would not have wept. You can't buy time...time is what we need.
Tomorrow we have a field trip. He cannot go, because he, at the end of the day, is here on a suspension.
I pray that he stays home....just tomorrow...and that on Thursday we build again.

Monday, May 28, 2007

And Loucchie Makes 14

He threatened to punch my face in once. Told me to watch out because the next time he saw me on "the block" I was "going to get it." I see him almost every night when I walk to the bus.
I can't count the number of times he's ran in to my classroom and cursed me out, then stood outside my locked door and screamed "F*** YOU!!!" at the top of his lungs.
2 weeks ago he called me a "stupid white bitch" and kicked another teacher as we walked to the main building.
I've written up every incident and requested time and time again that he not be allowed in my classroom or near my students.
He doesn't even belong in our school. He's on a superintendent's suspension from another school. None of that mattered on Wednesday when the suspension teacher was gone and they needed a babysitter. An aide attempted to bring him in to my room.
"He can't be in here," I said. "He's threatened me numerous times, I've written it up and requested that he not be put in here."
"They told me to have (my para) watch him."
"Well she's not here right now and he can't be in here," I said.
They left, and as soon as my para came back so did the aide, with the student.
He was ours for the day. I gritted my teeth and tried to hold back my anger. My students sat silently. I had just been defied and they all knew it.
"One word from you and you are out of here, do you understand me?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said.
And he worked. And worked. And worked. Silently. All day.
And I realized what I should have realized all along. He acts the way he does because he cannot read or write or add.
He stayed that day, an hour later than he was supposed to. He did work while my class played games and at the end of the day he asked if he could come back tomorrow. I told him we would see.
The next day he came back.
He worked....and worked....and worked.
I let him play a game with us. He tried. He couldn't. He couldn't read the words for sight word bingo. I don't show my kids the cards. He couldn't multiply for around the world. My kids have come so far. He's only beginning. His spirit couldn't be broken. He asked to come back tomorrow. I said okay.
He came back with pencils and notebooks and paper and asked to be in my class. I told him we would see. He asked for a clothespin (on our negative consequence chart) and for his name to be added to our reward system. He wanted to know what table to sit at for table points. He wants to belong. He already does.
I tested him for reading. He doesn't know all of the letters of the alphabet.
The kids have adopted him like one of our own.
I can't stop thinking of ways to help him.
People keep peeking in my room, in disbelief that I have Loucchie sitting down and working.
Actually, Loucchie has Loucchie sitting down and working.
If only it wasn't June already.
He's unofficially mine, I think. Not on my roster, but mine. Out of all the lessons I've learned this year, the power of forgiveness and second chances may just be the most powerful.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

3 of my students are getting superintendents suspensions that start tomorrow. Malik was upset about his, worried about going to suspension "court" and having to defend his actions in front of a judge who would decide how long his suspension would be.
Tears ran down his face and he pounded his fists into his desk and through clenched teeth he asked, "What if the judge is white?"
"What?" I asked?
"White people lie and they never believe me. What if the judge is white?"
Yahkemp, who has returned from his superintendent's suspension believing I am the best teacher in the world, was giving him advice like stay calm and tell the truth, but Malik kept saying, "The judge is going to be white, white people hate me, they never believe me."
"I'm white, I don't hate you, I do believe you when you tell the truth, and what you're saying is very racist, Malik," I said.
He looked at me, confused.
"You're not white," he said.
"I'm not?" I asked? "Then what am I?"
"I don't know. You're Ms. Gronquist. You listen to me. You know when I'm lying."
"Now I do, but that's because I know you like you're my own kids. In September I didn't. We've gotten to know each other. You know when I'm having a bad day just by looking at me, right?"
"Yeah," he said. "And when you want to laugh but you're trying not to," he said.
"Exactly," I said. "But the relationship that we have doesn't change the fact that I'm white. If anything it proves the fact that not all white people are out to get you."
"Yeah but see you're not white," chimes Yahkemp. "You're white on the outside but black on the inside."
"What?" I ask.
"Like, you get sunburned and you can see your veins but you're not like white people," he said.
He was completely serious.
It was an incredible segway to so many conversations that happened 2 minutes before it was time to go home and now they will be gone for at least 7 days.
It will come back up. It needs to. They need to learn to live in other parts of the world.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This Week...

Mario got arrested for assaulting a student who attends the other school that shares our building. In the process he also incited a riot and hit the other school's principal.
Adony and Malik jumped Jose at lunch. The ambulance was called. There was blood in his urine. It's not just play anymore.
I wasn't there for either incident. Lunch. Before school. After school. They wouldn't do it in front of me.
It doesn't take away the responsibility I feel because they are my kids.

We're doing running records again - this time they're making HUGE gains. Last time they didn't and I lectured them for 45 minutes. I guess it worked...
It's such a mix of intensely positive and negative that at the end of every day I am exhausted.
It only grows more exhausting as my relationship with each one of them grows but the relationship is what they need so I give...and give....and give....and when they leave at 2:50 on Friday I put on my sneakers, shuffle home, collapse on my white fluffy comforter and breathe....breathe....breathe....and think about them.

Friday, May 11, 2007

113 + 70.
Today Joshua completed this problem correctly, by himself, on the board.
We all clapped. We gave him 2 cheers instead of the usual one. I got out my cell phone and took a picture of him next to the problem. What I really wanted to do was cry but I couldn’t because they wouldn’t understand why I was crying.
The para in my room (my usual para has been on jury duty for a week) didn’t understand the big reaction.
“I used to sleep on the rug,” Joshua explained.
(And when he wasn’t sleeping I was begging him to sleep so I could teach, I thought to myself.)
“And when he stopped sleeping he couldn’t add 3 + 5,” I added.
“Not even with cubes,” he chimed in.
He was beaming.
So was I.
He’s come so far.
I’m not even sure how. I can pick out little mile stones, like the day I put a frog number line on his desk and he took it upon himself to keep it spotless, even though the inside of his desk is a disaster area, or the day we were playing a math game and he shouted, “6 times 6 is 36!” and I said, “How do you know that?” and he replied with a simple, “I was just thinking what you said about tallies and I got it.”
Somewhere it started clicking for him. He can add and subtract with regrouping and is beginning to multiply….and he used to use my fingers to add…progress requires reflection.

Friday, May 04, 2007


No internet this week - this is from May 1st.

If I don’t say this now I will surely break
As I’m leaving the one I wanna take
Forget the end and see the hurry up and wait
My heart is starting to separate

The Fray

My meeting on Friday, which turned in to more than one meeting, didn’t go at all as I thought it would. In spite of all that has happened, I thought that we could go in, have a discussion, and come up with a solution to the situation. I envisioned coming up with a way to stay at my school, educate my kids in a safe environment, and keep nurturing the relationships I’ve spent the last year building. When it comes down to it, I want to stay. I want to fix things, but I can’t do it by myself.
It didn’t happen. 2 hours later I realized I am young and na├»ve and have a lot to learn about how education systems work. They can’t split my class by grade levels. We don’t have the physical space and the region wouldn’t do it even if we did. I also realized that nobody in the room (except for my Program Director) had the passion that I did for my kids. It’s easy to say you care about the kids. It’s hard to live like you do.
This makes it even harder to leave. I went back to my room and cried to another teacher for the entire lunch hour, then spent the next 2 hours teaching kids who will feel abandoned in September if they walk in and I’m not their teacher. It doesn’t matter that everybody else leaves them. I’m not everybody else.
But then today was Yahkemp’s first day back from suspension. In 20 minutes I was hit by a book that was thrown at another student (he missed and hit me, bad aim?), cursed at, and he pretended to jerk off in front of me. “Can I go back to suspension now, please? My seat is still open there.” he informed me.
“No,” I replied. “You need to be here. You’re part of our class.”
He spent the rest of the day threatening students, yelling at me, and rapping at his desk.
I’ll fill out the reports, and if anything happens it will be weeks from now.
Already the room is different.
Already other kids are fighting.
Already other kids are angry.
Already I’m reminded of why something needs to change.
Already I remember why it’s not abandoning them. It’s demanding that something be done to ensure their safety, and mine.
So why does it feel like it’s the wrong thing to do?

*Update: Yahkemp got a 5 day superintendent's suspension and a 5 day principal's suspension, which means he's suspended at another school for 5 days and at our school for 5 days.
Finally something is happening. 4 of my other kids are suspended in school next week, and 5 are suspended in school the week after that. Not that suspensions are the answer, but consequences are, and they need them. Better late than never, and late is at least a place to start.
The world will not know or care if they had an IEP. It's time they be held accountable for their actions, and it's time that we bring the focus back to learning.