This log was written in a series over the course of a month. If it seems disjointed, that's why.
First week of school is over, second is just beginning, and I am exhausted. On Saturday, around noon, I got an email from a student I didn't recognize introducing herself, and how she was new to my 3rd period class. The email was polite, well-written, about half a page in length, and had perfect grammar and punctuation.
This was alarming, because my 3rd period class was an ELD1 class-- a class comprised of 8 students, none of which had been in the US longer than two years, who all were unable to write complete sentences, much less entire letters.
I checked my rosters, and what do you know, my ELD1 class pair had been replaced with a class of freshmen and another juniors class.
I haven't taught freshmen since my first and second year of teaching. I have basically forgotten the curriculum, but because I had the early prompting from the student, I had time to start planning.
I waited the rest of the day and Sunday for an official email from the school telling me my roster had changed, but none came. Sunday night, around 9pm, I wrote a post on Facebook laughing about the situation and pointing out that had the student not emailed me, I would have been very surprised on Monday.
15 minutes after I posted that, I got an extremely apologetic email from the new AP explaining that my classes had changed. I updated the Facebook post with a joking, "Who snitched?!" edit/explanation.
I have a few teachers and a union rep on my Facebook friends list. I had honestly assumed the rep had been the one to perhaps call the school, but at a later staff lunch-thing, she had no idea who did it, and was highly amused by the edit.
There are so many SPED kids in my "mainstream" English 1 class that the SPED department is sending an "Inclusivity Specialist" to basically come and act as a paraeducator for that period.
The specialist is super nice, but I don't think either of us really know what her role in the classroom is. I am used to college TAs who usually have an education background or want to be a teacher themselves, and so sorta know what they're about and take initiative to help kids on their own without prompting, but this person seems very reserved in the classroom. I don't know if that's because of uncertainty, or because she is trying to be respectful and not overstep or something.
Aside form the number of SPED students in my class, what spurred this on is that one boy has a particularly litigious mother who is a very strong advocate for her son's learning. This is a completely admirable trait, but it also means that the school is a little nervous and wants to make damn sure teachers are following his IEP accommodations. In general, most IEP accommodations are things I already do for everyone in my class (common accommodations include the ability to turn in late work and have more time on assignments, the ability to redo tests or take them someplace quiet, teacher reminders to stay on task, etc.), so I am not too worried. I know some teachers are more strict than I am about when students can turn things in.
I don't normally consider it, but I am actually a crier. I cry over sad bits in books. I cry when I think about how my cat will inevitably die someday. I used to cry for no reason at all, but the antidepressants put a stop to that.
And there have been three times in my life I have cried for a student. The first was a girl who wrote a personal narrative essay (the sort about what challenges you've overcome that are supposed to prepare you for college/scholarship applications), about how when she was a little kid, her half brother regularly raped her. It was all sorted out by the time she had me as her teacher; she had done her therapy, people who should be in prison were in prison, and she assured me that she felt fine. She had an entirely cavalier attitude about it.
I waited until class was over, locked the door behind them, and wept.
The second time was from a kid I had had for two years. I had taught his English class when he was a freshmen, then moved up the same time he did, and so had an entire class of kids I already knew really well from having them before. He was an absolute sweetheart.
One day, I notice him staring into space, but not a normal way, like a 'Nam style flashback kind of way. I asked if he was feeling alright, and he looked at me and said "No. I'm not."
He hung around after class and told me how his online friend had tried to commit suicide, and how he was "feeling the same way [friend]did" before the attempt, and how he was worried his parents wouldn't understand. He talked about replaying bad events in his head over and over. I had no freaking clue what to do except be as calm and understanding as possible while I called the advisor to come and escort him to the office.
The third time happened was the third week of this school year.
One of my new freshmen, whose name I hadn't even memorized by that point because I'd only had the class for a week, came up to me after class and asked if I would look over something he wrote. He warned me that he had showed his friends and that it was "a little dark," and that he wanted me to look over it for corrections. I said I would, and he say, clearly anxious, "Could you look at it now?"
I opened it up, half expecting a suicide note, and found that he's written an essay that was basically a nihilist screed about the worthlessness of life and inevitability of death. He read it over my shoulder, and I pointed to a couple of spelling/grammar errors just for the sake of it (because he insisted that was the reason he wanted me to look over it), and after I'd pointed out a couple, I turned to him and said,
"So. It is a little dark, and that's okay. Lots of people think about this stuff and write about it. There's whole philosophies about it-- nihilism and Nietzsche and stuff. It's okay to think and write about it, and writing about it is a good outlet. However, when a fourteen year old thinks about this stuff, then we get a little concerned. How are you feeling?"
He told me he was fine. Totally fine. But also his grandmother died recently. They were close. She raised him for half his life. And his parents and sister didn't seem to be taking it too hard, but he was. And how he couldn't stop thinking about dying. And how he was 1000% fine . . . most of the time. But then someone would mention death or make a joke, and he would suddenly be unable to stop thinking about death again. Or how there's Covid still around, and he's worried about that. And how he was feeling "pressure" and that pressure came from thinking about death, but he couldn't stop.
The details of the conversation get fuzzy writing it now. He talked for a good fifteen minutes about this growing fascination and fear of death, and how he swore up and down he wasn't a school shooter (he was SO afraid I would think he was one). Inside, I'm thinking, "kid, I'm not scared of you hurting other people, I'm scared of you hurting you," but I didn't say that. I assured him I didn't think he would hurt others, and that I wanted him to feel safe in school. He said the pressure and the fear was getting so bad that if he stopped showing up to school, that would be why. He was insistent that I know that if he skipped school, it wasn't because of his teachers or the classes. I mentioned that the school currently has the option for independent studies for students/families afraid of Covid, and that it might be something he and his parents could look into.
A few minutes before he ended, the district tech guy came in with my new replacement laptop I'd asked for. I said hi, then immediately went to ignoring him and gave my attention to the student, meaning the tech guy awkwardly waited around in silence while this kid poured his guts out, because I wasn't going to tell the kid to stop or do anything that would look like I wasn't giving him my undivided attention.
By the end of it, I let him know about the school emotional counselor and he agreed to go see her. I filed an official mental services referral and went on with the next class.
I didn't cry that day. It wasn't until a few days later, when I was talking to my dad and explaining what happened that I burst into tears.
So far, Kid hasn't mentioned it again, but he is coming to class, and he did speak with the school psychologist so that's something.
We put our cat, Petra, to sleep.
Petra was an 18+ year old tortie who originally belonged to my sister's coworker, but whom we adopted after said coworker moved back in with her mom, whose apartment didn't allow for pets. Petra was in our family for four years, which doesn't seem like a lot, but hurts nevertheless. Maybe it was because her personality was so big. She was completely deaf, and had an odd sounding meow, and she would wake us up at 4:30 AM every night because, for some reason, she decided that was time for breakfast. She'd purr when other cats got pet in the same room as her, and she loved sitting around with our very fat cat, Harley.
She had a cancerous tumor on her jaw. If it had only been that, we might've done surgery to save her, but the vet said because of her age, the healing process would be long and painful, and that Petra's kidneys were already starting to show signs of kidney disease (which is apparently one of the top ways older cats die). We held on for a week, and her tumor began to actually necrotize from the inside. She didn't appear to be in any pain, but we were worried she might be hiding it.
Me, my mom, and my sister were there at the vets office when they put her down. Normally, they wouldn't allow more than two people in due to Covid restrictions, but the vet okayed it, and we were all vaccinated anyway. Out of all of us, my mom was the one who was hit hardest. She was the one Petra would 'talk' to and bother for food, and who Petra would sit beside on the couch.
"It's not fair," my mom said later on. "We only knew her for four years, so how come we love her so much?"
Edit: Grayson has adjusted to life as a house cat. He is ball-free and lazy, and though he's stopped trying to fight most of the other cats, he and my sister's cat, Bosco, still have a blood-sworn feud going on where they want to tear out each other's eyes. It's a good thing both of them are pretty lazy and stick to their own rooms.