I Once Had a Student Who….
… was copying the work from the paper of a second grade girl sitting next to him. I walked back to him and reminded him quietly that he was supposed to do his own work. He didn’t need to copy from Amber. He vehemently denied copying her work. Then I pointed to the top of his paper. Not only had he copied her work, he even copied her name and had writtten AMBER instead of his own at the top of his paper.
No, I’m not making this up.
I Once Had a Student Who…
…was doing something to get himself in trouble. I can’t remember the exact infraction. I had him write a letter to his parents and tell them what he had done. I told him he had to get his parents’ signature on the letter and return it to me. On the school bus on the way home, he enlisted the help of a third grader who was learning to write in cursive and asked him to sign his mother’s name.
He returned it to me the next day with the giant cursive signature looking so much like a third grader’s handwriting. The signature touched all the lines perfectly and had the big loops done correctly…just like the ones in our writing guide. When I saw it, it was so hard to keep a straight face. I called his mother later in the day and we had a great laugh about it. I kept the paper for her to include in his keepsake papers. He never could figure out how I knew it wasn’t her signature.
I Once Had a Student Who
…was a senior in my class. She had such an inexhaustible need to be the center of attention, she would do absolutely anything to achieve that goal. Once she made a huge scene grabbing her abdomen, screaming and rolling around on the floor. It was so over-the-top (and I was so accustomed to watching her dramas) that I felt certain she was faking. However, given the circumstances I had to play it safe and call in the our school medical emergency team. They were just a group of teachers with first aid training. They were most impressed by her hysteria and called an ambulance who rushed her to the hospital.
Later in that same morning when my administrator questioned me about having an ambulance come to take a student away, I confessed to him that I really believed the student was faking the illness. The next morning he revealed that the hospital had done an emergency appendectomy on the student. He was relieved that we had reacted appropriately.
But that is not the end of the story. Our guidance counselor went to visit her in the hospital (later I also visited her). He overheard two doctors talking outside her room. They were confessing to each other that she had not had an inflamed appendix at all and they had operated unnecessarily. So much for Hippa privacy. Unfortunately this young lady’s brother had died of blood clots following dental work and she had the same propensity. She ended up having two heart attacks from blood clots going to her heart following surgery. She was left with some temporary paralysis in her legs which put her in a wheel chair for a couple of months and on crutches for the remainder of the school year. She did finally make a full recovery.
When I claimed she would do absolutely anything to be the center of attention, I wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest. She never once admitted to anyone that she was faking the whole episode. To her the heart attacks, and paralysis were all worth it to fulfill her need to be center stage.
No, I’m not making this up.
And then there was the time…
…a senior girl began coming in tardy too frequently for my first bell class. Our high school had a great team of people who called home about any absences or suspicious tardy notes. If a call from a parent sounded suspiciously young, they would do a follow up phone call to verify that it was really a parent calling.
But I had some kind of gut instinct about this particular situation. I called the parents directly and told them I was concerned about all their daughter’s tardies to my morning class. I cared for this young lady and was wondering if there was anything I could do to help her with the health problems that were making her late to my class.
You guessed it. There were no health problems. The parents said, “What?” in disbelief. She was leaving home promptly each day. Her boyfriend was calling in to school a couple of times a week impersonating her dad and apparently doing a good job of it. This gave the young couple some alone time together before she came to school.
The parents went a little momentarily nuts as you might imagine. But this was a particularly mature young lady. She actually told her peers aloud in class what she had been doing and also what I had done about it. She even thanked me for intervening. No, I’m not even making this up. She thanked me more than once that year. She said she had gotten herself into a situation and didn’t know how to get out of it.
However, just like those weight reduction commercials on television that have to include a disclaimer: “These results are not typical;” I have to confess that over the years I have uncovered some other teen detours when they have not been so appreciative of my diligence. A couple of them have stayed mad at me for the rest of the school year. But once they live a little longer and become a parent themselves, I think they’ll grow into a different perspective.
One teen girl even said to me, “You better hope I never run into you on the streets.” No, I’m not making that up either.
Life in front of the classroom has its ups and downs. No matter how great a teacher you are, you will have your wins and losses. The losses (even the temporary ones) hurt teachers a little more because we don’t go into this profession unless we care deeply about kids. It is no small job creating caring, responsible adults with enough confidence and courage to succeed. But I can’t think of any other more worthy endeavor. Can you?
TEACH…To Change Lives
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