Yesterday I was filling in for another teacher when one of the math teachers who was just walking by came in to say hello. When he walked in, one of the girls from the back of the room jumped up, ran over, and gave him a big hug.
Girl: Oh my gosh! I’m so excited to see you! I just got out of juvie!
Teacher: Hey! That’s good news!
Girl: Yeah, I was there for a month. [Jones] arrested me.
Teacher: OK! Well I’m glad you’re back.
Girl: Me too! When I was there at first, I was in detox, and it sucked. It was, like, the second day, and my mom came to visit. I begged her to take me home, but she didn’t want me, so I had to stay there.
Teacher: It sounds like you needed to be there, rather than home, if you were in detox.
Girl: Yeah, I guess.
Today, I went into the bathroom and saw a girl I had last year coming out of the stall. But behind her, I noticed that the seat was up. The only time I use the bathroom with the seat up is if I’m puking…
Sure enough, before I was even done peeing, she was back in the stall, puking. I met her at the sink and asked if she was going down to talk to the nurse. She said no. I told her she shouldn’t be at school if she was puking. Then her boyfriend, who was at the bathroom entrance waiting for her, said, “It’s not like that.” Shit.
So I looked at this girl – 17, smart, troubled past, but motivated to make her life better – and just asked, “How far along are you?” Eight weeks.
The boyfriend is 20. He’s a womanizer. He already has a baby with another woman who he never sees. I specifically requested that he wasn’t in my class any more after I had him two years ago because of the way he spoke to me – flirtatious, full of innuendo.
So I talked to the girl a bit about pregnancy sickness. I made sure our school nurse and social worker knew. I told her I hoped to have her again next quarter when she takes English 11B. And I asked her to talk to me if she needed to.
Then I walked away, and I cried.
I want so much for these kids. I want them to be better, to do more, to grow further than they thought possible.
I want to fix their problems. Or help them fix their own problems.
It’s hard being a closet idealist in a world that is very, very real.