Rod (we’ll call him), is a student in my homeroom class that I love. He is on his third Chronicles of Narnia book, all of which he has failed the AR tests before because the book is three years above his reading level (he’s at about 3rd grade, the books are about 6th). When I ask him if I can help him find a book on his level, he refuses. I don’t teach reading. I don’t push it.
Last week I got a call from Rod’s mom asking if I knew where he was, because he disappeared after our after-school tutoring program, aptly called “After School”. After calling my principal, both secretaries, and a counselor, none of which that answered, he showed up at his bus-stop. They had rerouted the bus and taken him, “Somewhere really far away.” No one informed parents the route was changing.
On Monday of last week, Rod passively told me his Paw Paw (Grandpa) is in the hospital because he had a heart attack. He didn’t seem particularly upset. The next day he told me that is why his homework wasn’t finished. Though, Rod’s homework is never finished.
Today we, as the school staff, were treated to lunch by Arkansas Counseling, the service that helps students like Rod. My secretary (the upper grade secretary, because we have two on our campus) came, in a way, busting into the teacher’s lounge saying, “When’s the sixth grade Christmas party?” “We haven’t decided yet, because we still don’t know when the Christmas program is.” (both of which are next week, undetermined times.) “Well, Rod’s mom is in the office [clear irritation in her voice], asking what to bring for the Christmas party. [More irritation, perhaps rolled eyes--] Why she’s askin about Christmas parties when her son is in after school and– how are his grades in your class?” (multiple sixth grade teachers murmur disapproval.)
I go to the office.
“Hi! Nice to see you!”
Rod’s mom “Oh hi, I was coming in because, well, you know Rod’s Paw-Paw is in the hospital?”
“Yes, and so far away, right? About an hour to Pine Bluff?”
“Yes. Well, we’re not going to have the car after tonight or all next week. So I can’t go anywhere to pick up anything, and I wanted to make sure Rod brought what he was supposed to to the party…”
My heart broke, broke broke. She went on to tell me how upset Rod is at home, how poorly Paw-Paw is doing (open heart surgery if he can get stronger in the next two days, otherwise… all arteries are blocked). She purely wanted to know what Rod should bring so he could feel like he contributed to the party. She wanted to make sure her son helped out the class.
There are so many reasons why this story is representative of my entire experience with Teach For America. I’ll let you figure them out. I’m going to bed.