So far, we have finished 9 days of kindergarten, and "we're 9 days smarter." For the third year in a row, I have a disproportionate number of boys to girls, as does the other kindergarten class. Right now, I have 7 girls and 13 boys. Last year, I had 7 girls and 23 boys!! I don't remember the exact numbers from the year before that, but the 2nd grade teacher asked me about it the first week of school because she couldn't believe how many boys she had. Must be something in the water in Englewood the past few years. Who knows. I shouldn't even admit this, but my cynical, jaded side thought for moment, "Gee, I wonder if the powers that be know about this trend, cuz their gonna need to build more jails in about 10 years." Yes, I know, that's horrible. That's what being in Englewood for 10 years had done to me. I immediately pushed that thought out of my head, and put my focus on trying to do something to ensure the exact opposite happens.
Another strange thing this year - our enrollment is WAY down. The first week of school, we only had 305 kids enrolled at the Hell-Hole. 305! By the end of the week, Mrs. J. in the office told me we were up to 429. Still a pitiful number. I do know, however, that during that week before the students came back, I saw three of my babies from last year and their parents in the office all asking for transfer papers.
One was my little D.S., who you might remember was the baby who needed to be thisclose to me all the time. He's the one that said, "Mrs. L., I love it when you touch me," and wanted "100 shmarshmallows." Jeez, I could think of a million more cute things he said and did. Anyway, I actually hugged his mom and celebrated the fact that he was going somewhere else. There isn't enough at the Hell-Hole for him. What a sad statement, huh? I know I gave him the best foundation I could, but I'm not that confident that there would have been a continuation of the same dedication to his education. I'm not for one minute trying to say that I'm the #1 teacher at the Hell-Hole. We have many teachers who care as much as I do about their students. But, unfortunately, they don't always have the resources to do everything they know or want to do for their students. Plus, we have a number of teachers there who simply show up everyday to collect their checks every other Friday (despite how small they are!) Add that to the fact that our staff turns over by 50-60% EVERY SINGLE YEAR, and it's a recipe for disaster.
That all leads to why so many of our kids have left. Because the Hell-Hole has been on probation for so long, the parents in the neighborhood have all been given the option to send their children to other, "better" schools. Obviously, many have opted to do just that. Which leaves me a bit torn. I'm really happy for those kids who will now get the quality of education they deserve. Hopefully, it will lead to a path of higher education that will someday get them out of that neighborhood and open doors to opportunities they might not have had.
But, at the same time, no students=no jobs. I'm not for a second worried about my job. Worst case scenario, the other kindergarten gets closed, and I will have to do both classes, probably as two half-day classes. Actually, I wouldn't mind that so much. I'm worried for the other teachers, especially those 'brand new' ones that were just hired. They come so full of enthusiasm and energy, and truly feel they can make a difference in the lives of these kids. I would hate for them to have to leave, but it's a very real possibility.
Very worst case scenario, Hell-Hole is closed due to low enrollment. Now, you gotta know, there's a small part of me that actually hope that happens. Maybe then, Big Cheese would be "forced" to retire. Within a year or two, the school would be reopened, but with a whole new administration, and probably new staff, and maybe things could finally turn around in that neighborhood. Ok, whoa, I'm getting way ahead of myself here. One can dream, can't they?
OK, back to this year's babies. For the most part, I LOVE them already. D.B. has actually been able to string together a couple of wonderful days. Just like she said, Mom didn't stay on Wednesday. There were a few ugly moments in the morning when he realized she was leaving, but luckily, Mrs. G. was going to stay with me for a while and do the morning read-aloud. [You may remember Mrs. G. and G. Family because I wrote about them many times last year. I LOVE THIS FAMILY!!! But, more on them in a bit...] So, Mrs. G. simply put her arms around the screaming D.B., and continued to read the story that she was reading, gently persuading D.B. to be her helper and hold the book, turn the pages, etc. She's so great! After a few minutes he stopped crying. I was actually able to leave the room, get some things done in the office, and put up a bulletin board in the 15 minutes that she read. Have a mentioned that I LOVE THIS WOMAN?!
There were just a couple other moments of crying, but we were able to get them under control very quickly. Thursday, Mom was saying good-bye, and the crying (ok, screaming) started again, but this time, another mom was in my room. (I had her daughter last year, and her daughter, I.W. was one of my absolute favorites.) She knows D.B.'s mom from the neighborhood, so she proceeded to step in and handle the situation. That's one thing that I still can't get used to about my parents. They really believe "it takes a village" and have no problem stepping in with other people's children. I go back and forth over whether I think it's a good thing or not. I'll let you know when I decide! Anyway, she proceeded to use a little tough love on D.B., which only made the screaming escalate. This went on for a few minutes, and just when I was about to step in (and ask her to get the hell out of my room!) he sat down in his seat, and stopped crying. I wasn't really sure what I should do, because I didn't want to set him off again. I just continued on with our morning routine, and he actually seemed fine. The rest of the day went relatively smoothly, with only two other very short crying episodes. By the afternoon, he was really showing a new side of himself. For the first time, he joined the other kids during center time, and actually played! Maybe that sounds insignificant to some of you, but to me, it was HUGE! All the other days so far, he either just sat/lied on the carpet, or sat alone at a table watching the other kids. He also put himself smack in the middle of the carpet during calendar time. The first 7 days, he was either on the very outer edge of the group, or next to me. And, the most exciting part was that he did it completely on his own. I looked down, and was very pleasantly surprised to see him in the middle, surrounded by the other boys and girls. Yay, D.B.!! Naturally, I couldn't give him enough praise and encouragement that day, and even the other babies chimed in, giving him a hand for having such a great day. One of them commented that "he didn't even cry during centers." Too cute! His mom came about 15 minutes before dismissal, and was going to come in to check on him, but I stopped her at the door and said, "Please don't jinx me, he's having a GREAT day!" She seemed very relieved to hear that.
Friday, D.B.'s mom sat with him for a few minutes reading during our quiet reading time. He was actually smiling and enjoying his time with his Mommy. Right up until....I.W.'s mom walked into the room! He took one look at her, and started screaming!! Oh, crap!! But, believe it or not, he was able to pull himself together very quickly, and the moms both left. The rest of the day was great!
I actually came home Friday in a relatively good mood. Exhausted, but happy. I also came home with my period AND a cold, but that's for another post :(
Customers are coming into the bar now, so I'll have to write about my other babies later. Have a great weekend!!
Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. ~John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America, 1983