What have I been up to? 1:42 p.m. 2003-03-28

I know, I know. I haven't updated in a long time. I have gotten so wrapped up in the dramas at school that I have done nothing but go home, eat fattening food, and try to forget.

I teach a small number of students, and have them for 2 hour blocks. This means that I have about 20 students, divided among 3 classes of 2 hours. In addition to this, this year, they are all Intermediate (with some Advanced), so there is really only one class preparation for me to do. This has been a pretty good year.

I am a person who prides herself on establishing a routine, and having a pretty predictable class. This way, both I and my students stay pretty serene. Business as usual.

Unfortunately, city schools are always subject to changes: students enter, students exit. And, lucky me, I have been the recipient of two doozies.

The first I may have mentioned before. He is a huge boy with a dead look in his eyes. He has been diagnosed as being bipolar (the original guess was schizophrenia) and is heavily medicated. He is "excuse boy," and is constantly calling my and the class's attention to various discomforts (acid reflux, stomach hurting, and - just yesterday - hallucinations). He has no business being in ESOL: he was born in Chicago, and any one of my students who can expound on acid reflux knows enough English! He is a big pain, and is often absent - he's absent, today, too. Word has it he was in a mental hospital for flipping out and hurting his brother.

Compared to my other new guy, however, "excuse boy" is lovely.

At the end of January, a young man in snappy gang wear entered my classroom. He didn't have much to say, and was very difficult to get to speak up. His reading was very slow, and I could tell that he was going to be a challenge to teach, since it seemed his level was low.

After that, I didn't see him again for over 3 weeks. Even then, I didn't have much trouble with him, as he would come in, mumble through some stuff, and not return for a week or two after. Until about two weeks ago.

When he entered class, after a long absence, I said, "Long time, no see." He replied, "My probation officer is making me come." Lovely.

To make a long story short (at least for me), I am copying the letter I wrote to my assistant principal in a final plea to get rid of this thug. This was in response to my first write up of the boy for arguing with me for simply asking him to participate in a class discussion.

Dear Assistant Principal,

Yesterday, I did as you suggested, and placed Manuel (name changed) at a desk facing the wall at the back of the class to do (or not do) his work. As my students filed into class – and even in the middle of class – they asked why Manuel was back there. I explained that he was doing his own thing, and redirected them to their class work.

I had two instances of contact with Manuel during the 35 minutes that remained of class after the Band assembly. One was to place an Azar Grammar book on his desk, and to point out the exercises that were to be done. He ignored me and wrote his name over and over in his notebook, even when I asked him to stop to hear his directions.

As part of my ESOL documentation required by the system and the state, I am to send home a Notification of ESOL Services letter home to be signed by his parents. I also presented him with a copy of my 4th Quarter syllabus for parent signature as well. He took the two papers and threw them on the floor, along with some of his other papers, saying that it was “trash,” and that he did not need to bother with that. As I was explaining why the documents needed to be signed, I looked at his notebook cover.

On printer paper, obviously printed out by computer, was a display of gang representation. I saw the words “Down with Sur 13” among the other words on the paper. He was using this as the cover of his ESOL class notebook. When I reached for it and asked to see it, he immediately dove for the notebook, and held it firmly, refusing to give it to me.

I then directed him to leave my classroom and to go to your office. I was afraid that he would try to get rid of the evidence, so I accompanied him. As we walked up the stairs, Manuel continued to verbally abuse me, and was both harassing me and treating me disrespectfully.

I am assuming that you still have the sheet of paper from his binder that he removed from the cover and was ready to dispose of. As you mentioned in our first conference with Manuel, I am not a teacher who writes students up on a whim. I speak Spanish, and am usually capable of handling problems with my students myself.

Manuel is different. He comes to our school with a long list of prior discipline problems. He was registered in my classroom on January 30, and attended sporadically until last week. Upon his entrance in my classroom, I have been nothing but courteous and helpful to this student, even providing copies of papers and documents that he was missing after his long absences.

As a rule, I never go into my students’ files at the counselor’s office. I like to give each student a fresh start. After Manuel’s truancy, and because of his obvious low level of success at the exercises I was giving him, I checked his file. Attached is the discipline record I found. Still, because he was not a behavior problem at the time, I had no worries.

It is only since last week, when his probation officer “made” him come to school on a regular basis, that I began to have trouble with Manuel. The first time I wrote him up, I did not feel that I could go through the whole process of assigning silent lunches and detention because the level of disrespect was so high. This is a student who obviously does not want to work and has no problem disrupting the class, and I cannot allow that precedent to be started in my classroom.

Yesterday, I placed a call to Manuel’s home, and got no response. I then contacted his formal middle school and was referred to an assistant principal. He said that Manuel has a history of discipline problems, and of gang-related activity, specifically with Sur 13. From September to December, he has been in ISS 11 times.

I would like to ask that Manuel be removed from my class. I know that he is classified as having a Learning Disability, and I see this as a factor for his low score in our LAB test. Another factor would be his attendance problems. I feel that Manuel would be better served in an alternative program.

Not bad, huh. I have sent the little bugger to one of my neighboring classrooms for the past two days, and he is suspended for today and next week. He has to attend an alternative school after regular classes. We will see what to do with him later.

I'm off to have my eyes checked. One more week until Spring Break. Yay!

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