. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: Ahhhhh….Joe C.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ahhhhh….Joe C.

I'm on vacation! Wahooo!! Yee haw!! And you know what that means…

I've got a cold.

Yup, a full-blown, lungs-rattle-when-I-breathe, make-myself-dizzy-when-I-sniffle cold.


This always happens when I get a break. I teach at a year-round school, so every three months I have a month off. That means that every three months, I have a cold.


This is our last year as a year-round school, so maybe during the 08-09 school year, I'll only have 1 cold!

Enough with the whining. Now on to my real posting.

Even though I went on vacation on Tuesday afternoon, I returned to school on Friday for a meeting about Joe C.'s pending expulsion.

You're not going to believe this. Are you sitting down?

He is not being expelled.

And here's the crazy part:

I am ok with that…

Am I nuts? Have I taken leave of my senses? Has my weakened condition led to some sort of temporary insanity?

I don't know. All of the above is possible. Most of the people who know about this situation feel strongly that the zero tolerance policy should be enforced. When a student brings a weapon to school, the student should be expelled, period. It sends a strong message to the child, to the student body, and to the public that we take safety seriously. I agree with that.

Furthermore, I am no softy when disciplining my own students. My personal motto when it comes to serious discipline is: If they're not crying, you're not trying.

So why do I feel we made the right move in deciding to hold off on the expulsion of the Cussing Bandit?

Like everything in education; it's complicated.

While I believe strongly in fair and equal implementation of rules, I still hear my Master Teacher's mantra ringing in my ears. She taught this to her students, and I have taught it to mine:

Fair does not mean equal. Fair means getting what you need.

"Getting what you need;" in the light of that phrase, I see Joe C. differently. What does Joe C. need right now, in addition a swift kick in the a$$? He needs what every kid, EVERY kid, needs: A community of people who care about him, even when he makes STUPID, STUPID choices.

He's nine years old, has never been in trouble like this before, is dealing with the recent absence of his abusive father, lives in a two bedroom apartment with 11 other people, is basically being raised by his 12 year old sister, and has spent the last 18 days making STUPID, STUPID choices.

None of these things are excuses, but they do shed some light on what Joe C. needs.

First, he needs an IEP that is compliant with the law. Because of his diagnosis of ADHD, his requires a behavior plan, which it is lacking. We can give him that. Although I feel strongly that a behavior plan would not have deterred him from bringing a weapon to school, he should have had one in place nonetheless.

He needs counseling to deal with his anger and impulse control issues. We can give him that.

He needs adults to offer him the guidance that a 12 year old sister cannot. We can give him that.

Most importantly, he needs to see forgiveness modeled for him so that he can experience its powerful effects. He has been a royal pain in my rear since day two. So what? As the adult in this relationship, I need to realize he did not arrive in this life with the same set of skills other kids have. So long as I stay mad and irritated at him, I am depriving him of the opportunity to hone the skills he does have AND I'm allowing myself to feel frustrated and powerless. I need to forgive him so I can get my head in the game as his teacher.

But what about the other students? What do they need? Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one? (There's a little Spock quote for you. My boyfriend would be so proud!)

Good question! They need to have an environment that is safe, nonthreatening, and weapons-free. We can do that, even with Joe C. on campus.

His world is about to become very small. He must check in at the office each morning to be frisked for weapons. He is no longer allowed to carry a backpack. He will have limited freedom at recess and lunch because he must stay near a designated supervisor. He is banned from public restrooms. There will never be any times when he is alone with other students without immediate adult supervision, and all of his time will be structured. These steps go a long way to ensuring the safety of other students.

It is easy to become frustrated and disillusioned with a student. The challenge for me lies in finding a reason to keep on trying.


Anonymous said...

While I do agree that a student like Joe C. needs help rather than punishment, I still find it ridiculous that bringing a weapon on campus isn't an automatic expulsion. I say this because what happens when he (or another "troubled" student) brings it again and hurts someone? Sometimes these things happen and we look back and say "we could've done something to prevent this". Also, I'm wondering how long your school will keep up with the frisking every morning and having a supervisor be with him at all times. At our school, we are short supervisors and having one constantly watching ONE child, will mean some part of the playground isn't being watched as carefully, leaving room for additional problems to arise. *shrug* I find this frustrating but I appreciate your sensitivity with Joe C and your want to help him! -Stella

Edna Lee said...

I fully understand the position in support of zero tolerance. It's a complicated matter, and not one easily solved. While expelling him solves the problem for the school in the short term, it does little to meet the needs of Joe or the other students. He'll be going to school with other children until he's 18, be it at my school or another, so we might as well do all we can for him now.

The preventive measures we're taking with Joe are being written into his behavior plan and therefore must be enforced until his annual review. I trust in our supervisors' abilities to multi-task their attentions when on the playground. I don't fear they will be unable to watch over him and their designated areas.

I'm sure in your career you've had a student that could have easily been given up on but you chose not to. The bottom line is, these kids did not choose us but instead, by selecting this profession, we chose them. That means all of them.

Again, I do understand your position, as I held it for a long time too. I only wish dealing with troubled students could be so black and white though. I'm not ready to write him off yet.

Wamblings said...

OK, I've eaten my humble pie over in my blog. I totally remember firing one of my employers because, actually, of parental behavior rather than student behavior. Life's so fun.

I understand what you're doing with this boy and my hat is off to you for being willing to. I'm so lucky that most of my kids come with caring parents in tow.