The Lowest Sort of Vermin

4 Mar

After several weeks of hard work, we held our Information Book celebration on Thursday. I have two classes, one before lunch and one after,  which means two celebrations. My teaching partner and I open the wall between our rooms for celebrations so students can see what the kids in her class did. We have forms on which they can write positive feedback and they like to see the work of their friends in other classes.   We added a new feature this celebration, author interviews modeled after Portland’s Wordstock. We set up two stages and it was a hit.

The morning celebration went off without a hitch. Two students were absent and only one did not have his book finished. My team & I had just had a meeting with his mom and he’s been playing her about his homework. He knew he’s have lunch detention to work on it until it was finished. I went to lunch feeling pretty happy. As Core 2 came in after lunch, it felt as if I was inundated with students saying they hadn’t finished. I was ticked.

All of our students have a Chromebook. If they don;t have internet access at home, we have ways of getting it for them. No printer? No problem! There are printing stations in the library. They’d been given lots of class time to work on their finished product. I felt I had a right to be grumpy, so before the celebration began, I let these EIGHT students know that, beginning the next day, they’d have lunch detention until it was finished. If, however, they turned it in to me before their first class, there would be no detention.

The next morning, most of the work was turned in. I have plan first period and I was puttering around the classroom when one of the girls with  a missing book came in sobbing. It was that sort of cry where you stutter as you inhale. Like deep profound grief.

Today was her birthday and I was giving her lunch detention. No wonder she was distraught.  My Mom once told me that if you cried on your birthday, you cried all year.I felt like the lowest sort of vermin.

She is a kid who has been struggling. We’ve had her parents in, too. She’s been trying really hard, but she just can’t seem to get it together. She promised me she would serve detention next week if only she could not have it today. So I asked her, “Would you be willing to do two detentions next week if I let you off today?” She nodded and  I told I wanted to think it over and to check with me after first period. I don’t know why I didn’t agree just then.

After the student left, I talked to my teaching partner about this. She asked if anyone had decorated her locker. Many girls in our school decorate their friend’s lockers on birthdays, but no one had decorated this girl’s. My heart sank.

When she returned, I told her I agreed and that she really had until Tuesday because I was going to be absent on Monday.

“I’m sorry I made you cry on your birthday,” I told her. Then I handed her a little bag of Hershey’s kisses I had in my desk. “I hope this helps sweeten your day.”

She left a little happier. I don’t know that I’ve solved the burden of school work she seems to be under, but maybe I’ve given her a little time to figure things out.

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10 Responses to “The Lowest Sort of Vermin”

  1. Joanne Toft March 4, 2017 at 6:52 am #

    Those days are always hard! for the student and you! I hope she can get it done for you!

  2. Donna Smith March 4, 2017 at 7:08 am #

    I think sometimes we are very hard on ourselves as teachers.
    She’s learned a lesson in:
    1. getting work done
    2. granting grace
    I think a lesson in grace is an important lesson. It will be useful when she someday has the opportunity to grant someone grace.

  3. arjeha March 4, 2017 at 7:33 am #

    We as teachers seem to want to take the blame when students have a problem. It is our compassionate nature. As Donna said, this girl learned two important life lessons. Hopefully these will carry over in her dealings with others.

  4. Frances A Mccrackin March 4, 2017 at 7:38 am #

    Your title and subtitle pulled me right in! But you were not the lowest sort of vermin- you handled it kindly. You can go home and sleep peacefully 🙂 We all relate- we have to be tough and exert our expectations, but remember the kid’s hearts and that their priorities are not ours. Glad you had the chocolate on hand.

  5. teachworkoutlove March 4, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Aw poor girl but it just has
    To happen. We as teachers have to be hard on kids sometimes

  6. MAK March 4, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    I know those deep sobs. It wasn’t you. In fact, it says a lot that she was willing to cry with you. You were her safe zone.

  7. 3011mileswestofvt March 4, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    Teaching more in middle school these days, I can so relate to your feelings of frustration and concern. Students are so very complicated. You listened to your heart, and hers. You reached out to her as in individual-not with rigid one size fits all lines. Sometimes, I think that is the best we can do. But it does not make what we carry in our hearts any less difficult.

  8. terierrol March 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

    Fair isn’t always equal. You did the best for that girl at that time. I wouldn’t want to have to go through those teen years again! Too much drama…

  9. JudyK March 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm #

    Awww, poor girl. But you don’t need to feel bad…. it sounds like you were very understanding and compassionate.

  10. Akilah March 4, 2017 at 8:05 pm #

    That was super kind of you, especially acknowledging that it was her birthday and being able to give her a small gift.

    I also agree with MAK that you are her safe zone since she was so emotionally vulnerable with you.

Comments are closed.

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