Sunday, January 15, 2006

My New Career

Hey, if this teaching thing doesn't pan out, I've come up with a new
career idea to fall back on. No, not writing cliches. I can be a drug
dog. I'd be taken care of, get to go for rides, play with a tennis ball,
run in the halls at school, and be in great demand. What's not to
like about a job like that?

Now don't be thinking I've dipped into the fake Vicodin. I got this
idea from Babs. No, Babs isn't a headhunter for drug dogs. She had
a post about how people can be judged by their clothing, and how
one such group in her high school was the "hoodies," who partook
of the illegal substances. That set me to thinking about the groups in
my high school, and in schools where I've taught. That post was in
the planning stages for today. By that, I mean I was mulling it over
while driving my large SUV to get my daily Sonic Cherry Diet Coke.
When I returned home, of course I could not get right to it. I had to
drop in on some blogs first, which is really just procrastination, pure
and simple. I can't help it. I am an Aquarius. We are known for
being dreamers, but not necessarily doers. In my blog visits, I
saw that Rachy had some info about the strength of dogs' noses.
And since everything is all about ME, it made me think of my
own nose.

Our school nurse says I have a good nose. Over many years, I
have turned in various students because they smelled like pot.
I should know. I lived with some potheads. Now you have to
be careful in situations like this, because sometimes, it may be
a case of them riding to school with somebody who smoked it,
or it may be on their clothes because someone at home is a
regular consumer. So all I have done is mention it to the nurse,
and the wheels of the investigation begin to roll. It has been
over a year since I narced on anybody. Our school does not
have a big problem with drugs. I am not saying it doesn't occur,
but it is not a big problem. We are a podunk little whitebread
school. There are no gangs, no deals going on between classes.
But people who think kids in their school do not do drugs are
fooling themselves in this day and age.

Back in my high school days, drug use was not uncommon. Think
of that movie, "Dazed and Confused," and you pretty much have
my high school. Except it was smaller, and in Missouri, not Texas.
Students acted like those kids, with the exception of spanking
freshmen with paddles. After our open lunch shift, several students
would come back to 5th hour under the influence of the wacky
tobaccy. Around town, we had the creepy older guy who hung
out with kids, buying them beer or giving them weed. It was a
simpler time. Cruising through town was the big recreational
activity, or hanging out at the Sports Complex, which had three
baseball/softball fields. Our junior/senior prom was cancelled
due to "lack of interest."

At one of my earlier teaching jobs, the kids who were known
for drug use were called the "stoners." The other group was the
jocks, which the stoners called the "preps." It was not really cool
back then to take drugs. Maybe that annoying, red-dress-wearing
Nancy Reagan had something to do with that. The "Just Say NO"
campaign. Man, why didn't someone tell that skinny hag that red
was not a good color on her? She was hideous. Anyhoo, the
times they were a-changin', and now the preps are as much the
stoners as the stoners. Drugs have become cool again.

And now...back to my favorite subject of ME. The kids I turned
in never knew who did it. That's because I asked the nurse not to
mention me specifically as the person who gave her the tip.
She just said 'people' or 'a teacher' had mentioned it. The kids
have rights. They are questioned, and some admit to it right off. If
not, and they show signs of being under the influence of something,
they are asked to go take a drug test, on their own, and not come
back unless they have results showing they are clean. If they don't
take that drug test within a reasonable amount of time, they receive
a 90-day or 180-day suspension. It depends on the case.

Once upon a time, there was a kid who showed up to my class
acting differently than usual. For him. He and I had a good rapport
for the 3 years he'd been in my class. On this day, 2nd hour, he
walked in. I stood at the door to supervise the hall, as usual. I said
"Good morning, Student," and he looked at me and said, "What
do you mean by that?" Kind of belligerant, an attitude I'd never
seen in him. So I kept an eye on him. I asked him a question about
what we were doing in class, and he couldn't focus. He'd say,
"Now what was that?" Next thing I knew, he fell out of his chair.
OK. Red flag. Something was not right here. This was within the
first 5 minutes of class. He joked it off. "Man, I shouldn't have
leaned over so far." The kids looked at each other like "WTF?"
I shuffled some papers on my desk, grabbed one, and told them
I needed a copy, and I'd be right back. No need to announce
that I'm narcing on someone. I went straight to the nurse's office,
told her he was acting differently, and could she take a look.

Within 5 minutes, she was at my door, asking to talk to him about
his shot record. He did not return. For a year. The next day, the
kids were talking about it. "Did you hear what happened?" I said,
"No," which was the truth at that time. Then a kid said, "Man, I sat
behind him in Social Studies, and he took out this bottle of Xanax
and shook a bunch of them in his mouth." Then it was my turn.
"And you DIDN"T SAY ANYTHING?" He mumbled, "No. I'm
not a narc. I didn't want him to be mad at me." Then I had to
lecture them. "Don't you think you should have told someone? You
could have dropped an anonymous note on the teacher's desk!
Then they'd have to check it out. What if he'd died? Wouldn't you
rather have him mad at you than dead?" Then some talked about
a drunk driving accident where a student was killed, and how the
kid who loaned him his car wished he'd said no, because he knew
the kid shouldn't have been driving.

One of them asked if I would ever tell on them. I told them it was
my job, that my first duty was to make sure that everybody in our
school was safe. That was my number one priority. If a student
can not even sit in a chair without falling, then something is wrong.
They said they trusted me, was I going to tell on them for things
they said? And I told them, "I will do whatever it takes to make
this school, and everyone in it, safe." And I reminded them that
I had never once made a promise to keep anything they said

On the contrary, I had told students from day one not to say
anything they didn't want told to the principal, because that was
my job. When I started with the At-Risk progam, I had some
hard-core students. They wanted to come in talking about the
weekend parties, drinking, fighting, racing cars. I had 19-year-
old seniors in a class with 14-year-old freshmen. I told them
that talk was not school-appropriate, that the fact was that they
were breaking the law, and I didn't want to hear them brag
about it. I promised them I WOULD TELL on them. That I
saw it as a cry for help, for someone to care enough to stop
them. So most of that talk in my classroom stopped.

One kid just didn't learn. "Hey, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, my dad is
going out of town this weekend, and I'm having a party. Want
to come? I'm making some hot-wings, and we're having beer,
and playing cards." Nope. Not appropriate. I told him not to
bring it up again. At lunch, I told the principal, who made a call
to the local police, who busted the party. This happened about
three more times that year. And the kid said, "Man! Every time
I have a party it gets busted! Now people don't want to come
anymore." Duh!

Same thing with kids who have talked about keeping their money
at someone else's house. Why didn't they want their parents to
know they had this money? Or the ones who were so nervous
when the drug dog went up the hall, and barked at my door.
"Can he come in the classroom? I'm really afraid of dogs. I can't
be here if he comes in." Or the one who asked if the dog was
trained to sniff out cigarettes. What have you got to hide, kids?
And the ones who told me, "Most people are not dumb enough
to bring it in school. They keep it in their cars." Newsflash: the
parking lot is still school property. They can search your car.
Or the ones that told me kids hide it in their shoes, or have a
section behind the rings in a 3-ring binder. You can bet all that
information was passed along through the proper channels.

Sometimes I don't butt in. Like the kid who mentioned that she
found her step-dad's stash of pot, after he'd had told her mom
that he quit, so she told on him to her mom. Another kid yelled
at her that she wasn't supposed to say things like that to a teacher.
The yeller must have a lot to hide. But the other one, she looks
to be taken care of, no neglect issues, and tells how her mom
helps her with her homework every night. So that is none of my
business. I'm not a police informant. But you can bet if it's
something that is hurting a kid, I'm going to tell. At one school,
a 6th grade boy dressed out for PE, and had bruises all up
and down his legs. I asked him what happened, and he said his
dad beat him with the belt again. I told the principal. She called
DFS, and he and his sister were taken out of the home. Did I
feel bad? Yes and no. The principal said they had called this
in before, and nothing got done. Maybe this was the last straw.
But reporting abuse IS THE LAW for teachers.

That is my job. Keeping kids (and ME) safe. I'll do what I have
to do. And don't you forget it.


Blogger jules said...

Oh I HATE having to make the DFS calls. But I hate seeing my preschoolers bruises and cigarette burns on their skin worse!

7:18 PM  
Blogger Redneck Diva said...

Thankfully in all my years of childcare I've never had to make a call like that. Or tattle like that. I can't imagine.

Good for you, Hillbilly Mom.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Chickadee said...

Good for you. I'll bet there are too many teachers who look the other way. I grew up in an abusive home and I know there were signs that I wasn't acting normally. Did any teacher do anything or speak up for me??? Nope.

12:00 PM  
Blogger MamaKBear said...

I didn't personally have to make any calls like that, but my boss made them on our recommendations (back when I worked in daycare).

There was a set of twins in my classroom, a boy and a girl. The girl showed up with obvious cigarette burns on the palm of her hand one day, and another time their mother's face was all black and blue, with a hellacious shiner.

So we called DHS and I don't know what all happened, but the Mom did end up leaving the Dad finally.

The twins were good kids, I wonder how they're doing now.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

At least I can turn it over to the school social worker to deal with. This is the 3rd year we've had her, but she has to travel between 3 buildings. The elementary needs her most.

I feel bad, until I think of what could happen if I didn't tell.

We went round with DFS about HH's older boys living in a camper with no running water for a year. Did it do any good? No. Their mom made up an abuse story to get back at HH. Oh yeah, they believed that one. It took a year to work that out.

The poor kids don't know what's going on when they're young. They must think it's like that at everybody's house.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Hi Hillbilly Mom,
Good on you for taking the stance you have taken. You are right in that a lot of this is attention seaking, and these kids do need help.
The problem these days is they are given a pamphlet and told not to do it again, and that never works.

6:50 PM  

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