Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What Is Wrong With These Dang Kids???

This has been a tough week. First thing Monday morning, I found out that two Dunbar students were involved in the killing of that student at Simeon High School Saturday. One of them, Ronald Little, was my student the last two years. He was in my sophomore English class and then my junior English class last year. So I knew him well. I would not have guessed he was capable of this.

I have had several students I think are completely capable of killing someone, but he's not one of them. The kids called him Rerun, since he'd been held back once or twice. The kids made fun of him, and I remember him getting beat up a time or two. In my classes, he just didn't show up that much. I often had to call his grandmother, who is raising him. You can tell she's a tired old lady who has no idea what to do with this child. I don't know where his parents are.

He has always been pretty nice to me. I remember one time we had a big argument, because he refused to take off his hood and his headphones in class (that was my first year at Dunbar, when I was more concerned about those rules). And later that year he was suspended for freaking out and beating the shit out of some kid who had been bugging him. I guess that was a clue.

Anyway, he was taking Saturday school at Simeon, because he failed most of his classes at Dunbar and had to make up credits. He failed both of my classes. From what I have heard from other students, a group of kids were harassing him each week. So he brought a gun to Simeon on Saturday, hidden in his waistband. He told the kids he had a gun, and they followed him outside and were taunting him to show them the gun, etc etc. So he gave the gun to Samuel (who I don't know) and he's the one who pulled the trigger. I get the impression that he wasn't aiming at anyone in particular.

So now an 18 year old is dead, and Ronald's life is over before it really even had a chance to begin.

What makes me mad about all this, is the media coverage. Chicago Public Schools had a rally yesterday (during school hours) to protest gun violence. They actually bussed 400 or so CPS students. The mayor was there and was very dramatic in his pleading for students to stop using guns.

I am not a fan of guns, at all. But the problem isn't guns. The problem is poverty and hopelessness. I have so many students who have nothing to live for. And they'll tell you that. They live in these shitty apartments in the projects -- slums, basically. They go to shitty schools. I wish Mayor Daley would come to my school (unannounced, so it's a surprise) and just walk through the hallways. Listen to the way the kids talk to each other. So many of our kids are consumed with anger. Use the bathrooms. Where there are no doors on the stalls. No toilet paper. No soap or paper towels. Then he would see how hard it is to feel hopeful.

It would be nice if our schools were places where hope could flourish, but they're not. (Well, if you are at Payton HS or Northside College Prep, you have hope. Not at my school, or most of the others in the city.) The rooms are so dirty. Trash is left everywhere. Security is lax and selective.

I'm trying to remember the last time I saw Ronald. It had to be in the last month or so. I remember being surprised that he was a senior. I know that I asked him how things were going. I don't remember his answer.

I have heard that his grandmother is very sick. I can't fathom what she must be going through.

I'm guessing Ronald and Samuel will be locked up for a very long time. Chicago wants to make an example of kids like these. They are saying it's gang-related, although that's misleading. Every kid has to pick a gang, but not all the kids are active gang bangers. I don't think Ronald was, but I could be wrong about that.

Then today, I took my 6th period freshman reading class to the library to use the laptop lab. Two laptops were stolen during my class. Presumably by my students, as no one else was in there. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be blamed for that.

How much longer til summer?


Alannah said...

Reading this broke my (privileged, white, educated) heart. I wish more people read about your experiences. You write about this very well. I would love to see your writing collected into a book about your experiences teaching....not some Dangerous Minds bullshit (look how the white lady changed these poor kids' lives!) but as an observer of some of the worst conditions for learning. I don't know what I'm really saying now....just that this sucks and I know you're exhausted and usually at the end of your rope.

I really admire what you're doing.

foxxychica said...

I am so dissappointed in the way in which things have been going. I believe the parents are the major problem but the teachers get the blame. I get tired of people telling me I am the reason children are failing. Maybe if parents were actually parenting, a lot of this stuff would not happen.

JoAnn said...

It's all your fault.