WOW What a Day.
So, I am a school teacher and every now and then I will post a little something about what goes on in an inner city school. Now, things are tough here in the city….but they are not Chicago or Brooklyn/Bronx tough. haha - however, there are real issues and life is tough for the kids. Granted, they create a lot of their problems, many of them are repeating the generational curses that have been passed down to them or are just plain products of their poor and low moral environments. These particular posts will be official Diary Entries - DIARY OF A MAD BLACK TEACHER!
I’m a drama teacher. As if we don’t have enough drama, right? Today was not to be an exception. It was Monday - the FIRST day back from a long 2 week fall break for the kids and we couldn’t even bring in the time back without having a good ole fashioned gang fight. Let me lay the story out as I experienced it.
I was driving back from lunch and I normally don’t go to the restaurant that I went to - but God had something in mind for this day. As I was coming upon the school, I noticed a familiar face…it was one of my middle school students that I had in an upcoming period. Instead of going towards the school, he was running AWAY from the school. Now, for those that know me - I’m just going to come out and say stuff and I don’t let blatant ditching just go without somebody hearing my mouth. I slowed down, rolled down my window and hollered out: “And where are you going?”
The tables flipped quick. His voice quivered as he said, “I’m going home.” I had never heard his voice like this and his behavior was composed but odd. I immediately asked what was wrong. He seemed hesitant but came closer to my car and began to spill his mind. “There’s going to be a gang fight,” he said. “Between who?” I asked. Some kids had jumped his brother the week before and he said it was a revenge thing. I guess the kids had been talking a lot of noise around school.
Now if you don’t know much about gangs - it’s all about respect, territory, and power. Each group likes to be known for who they are and when their power or abilities are challenged…then they must prove to you what they want you to understand. Often times this leads to irrational thinking when you have large groups fueling each other with negative energy, with peer pressure at it’s peak, and with the mob psychology taking over…it most times turns ugly. This is how so many fights end in death - when this irrational person influenced from all of these other things, having a weapon is like giving their opponent a death sentence…some are accidental, most are intentional…all are unnecessary and unfortunate.
The 2 gangs that were warring today were the Southside Locos and the Hoover Cripts. This is an interesting dynamic because the first gang is a hispanic gang and the latter is a black gang. The school is already known for it’s high number of fights…now adding a racial issue to this is like adding a bitter cherry atop our wonderful dysfunctional social banana-split-opened-heads sundae. Each gang had something to prove…but for some reason, my student had more fear in him than arrogance and a desire to push his power around. This is what made my skin stand on end - this was new…fear?
I asked my student to get in my car and let’s go back to the school. He refused. He said he couldn’t go back in there after running out. I tried to plead with him to come with me to talk to the officer, but he shot that down quickly - being a snitch is openly asking for a beat-down. DUH, Tinasha. I tried to get more information about what he knew was going down, who was involved, when, why, etc. All he could tell me was that another one of my students was going to get quite a few of his gang friends (I later found out this was to be up to 20 kids) to jump his brother. He began to cry again, speaking through the tears saying, “I don’t want to see it. It’s going to be bad.”
This kid comes to my class and hardly ever does work. He and his brother talk all day, do nothing and leave with no care in the world for their grades. Their parents speak little to no English and trying to get them to help is soooo difficult. I had never opened my eyes to see this kid before this day - he was different…he was a kid in trouble and had been every day I’ve seen him - but it took something tragic happening for me to see how deep the trouble was.
I let him go on his way. I got his address and phone number, just in case I needed it later to call and inform him of anything new. I told him that I would be the snitch and would talk to the officer and the administrators to see if we can do something. I had to face the hard facts: this was a fight that truly can’t be stopped, but we can try to simmer it down.
I immediately went to the administrator at lunch time to talk with her and the officer was conveniently in the area - killing two birds with one stone, right? -hmmm
I told them my story and it fell on apathetic ears. They had already known about the fight…had been hearing about it all day as middle school students tend to not be able to keep the buzz down about anything. I gave them the names I knew and they stated they were going to look into the story, be watchful after school, and try to prevent things from getting too carried away. That’s all I could really ask for, so after I told the head principal, (also apathetic), I just went on my way - back to class to teach and get on with the rest of the day.
This is where the story takes a turn for the ugly and the Mad Black Teacher comes out in me.
Not 5 minutes after the final bell rings for the day, students are cursing and making threats in the hallway about beating up a kid. I assumed it was finally here…the moment of the day. I walked outside and went to a blind spot right outside the side of the building. This is where kids fight a lot because no one can see them and by the time they get to them, the fight is over.
I walked outside and the band teacher was on the phone just looking out into space as he conversed with whomever he was talking with. 30 seconds pass and a crowd of kids roll out of the back doors. More students after school than normal, I know many of those kids most likely missed their busses just to be apart of the excitement.
Within one minute of me claiming the fight, it inevitably broke out on campus grounds. They were headed for a nearby school to fight in a blind spot behind it. They did not make it, I’m sure their racial and gang epithets hurried along the process. I looked around for the officer….no where near. I looked around for an administrator…hmm. I got on my phone and attempted to dial someone again, because my first attempts yielded no response. I was able to reach an administrator and informed them of the fight that they earlier said they would be monitoring to make sure didn’t happen on campus grounds. She was shocked they were fighting. She was shocked it was on grounds. She was….shocked. She seemed to have been thinking out loud or talking to a nearby staff member, and it was then learned that the officer had gone home for the day. She said they would send someone around there - but no one came. The band teacher, in all his energy, ran to stop the fight.
This fight - nearly eight kids began to hit this boy. At some points, taking turns, with bystanders getting in the way, making it hard for them to do any true damage. It traveled as they hit him. The boy getting pummeled was not able to get very many blows in himself. Helpless, his only hope was a fast-approaching teacher with all the care in the world.
And what’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with our system? We have a greater system…the American system that is rotting before our eyes, and we have our local system that is speeding the process along on our kids moral decay.
I walked back into the building into a meeting with these very administrators and said nothing. I had no words. No phrases could form themselves together to express my thoughts in an appropriate manner towards them, so I took the old mama option: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
It was an after school fight on a not so routine Monday. The kids could have had a razor, a blade, knuckles…a gun. A kid could have been killed…on the campus grounds of an inner city school of a not so routine Monday. And the only journey of emotion would have been apathy and shock.
I know it gets tough to stay in the trenches with these kids everyday - but if you opt in, you opt in for ALL of it…the good, the bad, and the bloody. Being halfway in…is setting a death sentence on these kids. Whether it be by letting them down in the mental world where we cultivate their brains, or the social world, where we expose them to a different, more righteous way of living. Now no, we can’t control their actions - they have to choose to eat the bread in order to survive. But if we do not do our part, we inevitably sentence them to a dysfunctional life in society, to a criminal life in society, to…death.
Be the change you want to see, or get out of education.
I was mad on Monday…let’s try to get glad on Tuesday. I just hope my student is okay. No one answered the phone when I called and I doubt he’ll be in my 6th hour. SIGH