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Archive for October, 2011

I received the following four journals this past week. I thought they might reveal a little bit about the state of Education. The only thing I have changed is spelling and names. The rest is exactly the words used. The first letter was a free write (Write whatever you want); the others are a response to the topic write a letter to someone who has impacted your life. Here’s a sampling of what I received. Keep in mind, I teach 8th Grade:

1. “(My girlfriend) might be pregnant. I don’t think it’s so bad. I’m happy about it. I don’t see what’s so bad. Her mom wants her to get an abortion, but I won’t let her. If she succeeds, I will call her a baby killer.”

2. “Dear Mom and Dad,
When you guys left me I didn’t know what to do. I was lost. You guys made me go through hell. I didn’t have you in my arms. I never had a hug or kiss. It’s hard for me to see kids with their parents. I cry inside when people say, ‘Hey, tell your mom or dad…’ Every time I hear Mom and Dad, I feel so depressed, and at some point I feel like ending the pain, and I want to end my life so I don’t want to live with the pain. I never knew you guys at all. I wish I did.”

(I asked him what had happened–wrote the question actually, since he said I could read his letter. Here’s what he wrote back:)

“Well, when I was a baby, my mom gave me to my grandma and she left, and my dad split too. So I grew up without parents. So, I don’t know how it feels to love.”

3. “Dear Dad:
I haven’t seen you in years. This ‘in and out of prison’ crap is killing me inside. I need you, and all I can do is talk to you on the phone and Facebook–which I don’t know how you have a Facebook in prison. Even though, if you add it up, you were in prison for 12 years of my life, I’m 14 now. I love you and need a dad. Our memories are dear and close to me. I’m in this classroom writing it as an assignment, but I actually mean this to you, Dad. Our memories make me smile. For now, I’ll have to stop writing. I’ll see you when I’m 22. Love, your son…”

4. “(Name) was my mom’s husband who tore my family apart. He came into my life when I was 18 months. My brother was about 4 years old. He threw bricks at my brother when my brother would pee in his pants. When I was 3, he took me to the room and took my clothes off and raped me. I didn’t know what was going on until I was 7 years old, and I asked to live with my dad because I was scared. When my step mom started noticing scars and noticed I was acting different, she pulled me into the room and asked me if something was going on. So I told her how he was abusing me and punching me in the face and raping me. She got scared and nervous, so she called my dad at work and told him he needed to come home. When he came home, my step mom talked to him, and he came out of the room crying and made a phone call. Even though I lived with my dad in (town), I still went to (a school name). After school, I walked to the office because my name was called over the intercom. There was a guy with a notebook and pencil. My sister and brother were in the office talking to him, and it seemed as if he was taking notes. He asked me questions about when I was raped. I remembered everything that happened like it was yesterday. My mom didn’t know this guy was here. I was trying to figure out who he was, and when I looked at his shirt, there were 3 letters “CPS” I didn’t know what that meant. She had told me it meant Child Protective Service. I thought I was going to get taken away. My mom walked into the school and realized what was going on. After she and the CPS guy talked, she took us to my aunt’s house and we tried hiding from him (step-dad). When he found my mom, he started shaking her and tried killing her. As I started crying, he came and punched me. My mom pressed charges, and now he has to be 100 feet away from us and he is not allowed in (town). After everything, my mom took me to the hospital and they got me checked out, so after that I was sent to the emergency room, and I was dehydrated. They didn’t think I would make it through the night, but I did. And now, I’m living today for tomorrow.”

One week of letters. So the reader knows, I have submitted each of these letters to the counsellors. As to the validity of these letters, I have heard the general details of each letter confirmed by siblings or others in the community. The specifics are the account given me in the child’s own words. Yes, there are details which make me question their truth (i.e., do CPS workers wear shirts advertising their logo? I don’t thinks so…But, I had heard from the other siblings similar accounts of this step-dad’s treatment of the kids, so the details in it are at least mostly accurate.) For me, it was just another reminder to not write these kids off as “Failing students” as the state would label each of them but the author of the third letter, who is in my Honors class–the rest currently hold F’s in my class. It’s a matter of looking at a student who has already “Left the Child Behind” and trying to pick up the pieces in the aftermath.

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Yesterday was a long day. I was supposed to go directly to help with Musical Theatre auditions, but ended up counselling 4 kids along the way.

It all started 8th hour when I had to break up a fight in the hallway. I finally got eye contact with the student I had grabbed (other students had helped with the other boy), and got him calmed down. I took him down to the office (frustrated because 8th hour is my most out of control, and I couldn’t imagine what they’d do without me in there…) On the way, he decided to punch the wall, splitting two knuckles and dripping blood down the wall. He was so mad, he cried in the office. The other kid had called a girl a “B” and when this kid had confronted him about it, he said, “B means girl.” So, the kid wanted to hit him. I explained that the instinct to protect a woman was noble, and I was proud of him, but fighting wasn’t the way to handle it.

When I returned to class (having wiped off his knuckles and the wall), they were all sitting in their seats (mostly quiet…) Miracles DO happen. I made it through the period, went to check on my kid in the office, and returned to class to get ready for auditions. Someone else was already there.

I’d forgotten I’d told a student he could talk to me after school. Sigh…He explained that he had feelings for a friend’s girlfriend (and she for him). He didn’t want to play his friend but really liked this girl. I explained to him how valuable he was and that he didn’t deserve to be anybody’s “What if something else’s better…” person. We discussed his future, and he gave me a hug, and said, “I love you. You totally made me feel better.” Now on to auditions…

Except there were two students in the hall. One just needed a notebook, but the other was dealing with trying to restore a relationship with his best friend who he’d ignored for weeks because of his girlfriend. His girlfriend had said they should stay friends, but now was mad that he was trying to restore the friendship. We talked for a bit, and he walked me down to auditions (for which I was now about 15 minutes late.) While I was telling him goodbye, another student walked up.

“Miss Brailey, can I talk to you?”

“Sure, what’s up?” (I’m expecting him to ask for help with English, since I’d told him I would help him on his work…)

“I need to figure out how to deal with my anger issues, so I don’t end up like my dad.”

Sigh–his dad’s in jail.

“Okay, come on in here.” I took him into the choir room (Which attaches to the stage where I could hear the auditions I was supposed to be helping judge faintly in the background…)

We sat down, and I explained to him that he has a choice. Patterns of behavior are repeated from parent to child unless someone deals with them. If he doesn’t deal with this, it will not only affect him, but his kids as well. He needs to say, “This stops now, and this pattern won’t be repeated in my family.”

Then, I explain that we become like what we focus on. I explain that always dwelling on what his dad has done makes him like that (angry.) I shared with him that he needed to forgive his dad–not that what his dad did was right–but acknowledge the wrong of it, and forgive him for it. I shared the example of Corrie Ten Boom and having to forgive the guard who killed her sister. Forgiveness releases us to not be held captive by another person. I gave him examples of how to forgive his dad. He said, “Wow, how can you know so much about me when I haven’t talked to you about this?”

I had the opportunity to pray with him, and he said, “Man, I feel so much better already. But, now what? What’s the next step?” I reminded him how to forgive and encouraged him to find men in his life who would pour into him, since manhood is bestowed by other men. He asked, “How will I know who’s the right kind of man?” I explained that he should look at the man’s wife and kids. How they respond to him is a good indicator of what kind of man he is. I also explained that he should pick a man he wants to be like and ask that man to spend time with him doing guy things. He had a coach in mind to talk to.

He said, “Man, you should be a therapist.”

“I am,” I replied. “I just don’t get paid the big bucks for it.”

He laughed and gave me a hug. I held his shoulders and looked him in the eye. “You are not your dad. You are not your brother. You are you. And that is enough.”

He thanked me and left. And I finally made it to auditions…45 minutes late, but with changed lives in the meantime.

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