Friday, July 9, 2010

Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

I haven’t posted any Tales in a while.

But that doesn’t mean I have ceased thinking about my students and the meaning of my teaching, and looking for ways to make more and stronger connections with these boys. Even though I am very short on time lately, I wanted to put something down about what’s going on here at G House. But what?

If I spin my teacher’s roulette wheel of memorable moments over the past few months, here’s where the little ball lands: Cesar. He’s the kid who threatened a teacher (not me) in a way that made her both laugh out loud—and wince visibly. What he said to her was, “Miss, I’m gonna stick a pencil up your ass.” I know that this is crude. But this is par for the course in the clink. This isn’t Sunnybrook Farm, you know. Cesar, with shaved eyebrows, eyes the color of wet, dark chocolate, and long, dark, curly hair (always pulled back in a ponytail), was excused from the program. Today. Cesar was brought back to secure treatment in Westfield. Today. It wasn’t only because of this comment; it was because he had threatened plenty of other staff and residents, with words in various languages and dialects, as well as behaviors that translated rather clearly across every culture.

Why? I ask. Why is Cesar so angry? Is it anger? Is it a mental health issue? I only had a sum total of seven short days, truncated by extended bathroom breaks, to try to teach him to read, most of them in a hot, cramped classroom. With one very small, very anemic air conditioner, and with books and materials I had such lofty hopes for, but that never got used. By me. And Cesar. How will he fare? I do not know. I’d like to remain optimistic. Some of these kids can - and really will make it. But sadly, my mind keeps coming back to the word recidivism. I cannot help it. I don’t think Cesar is going to live much of his life beyond prison.