I’ve never seen a 6th grader that acted, and actually was, that tough. I’m not talking about the student in my 6th grade class who has been held back 2 times, and has “Lil Mike” tattooed on his neck. I asked him who let him get it, and he said “My momma.”
I’m talking about Nate. “Sup” was the reply to my “Good Morning,” if I got any reply at all. Nate was a smaller than average 6th grader, had an earring in his ear, and wasn’t too bad of a writer. He was also apparently part of a blood-line that was known to all the teachers in the district for being wild, disrespectful, violent and pregnant.
I can’t remember exactly why we were in a meeting with his mom (a bus driver or dump truck driver – I couldn’t quite distinguish), but there we were: an assistant principal, one of the counselors, and all of his core teachers, including me. His mom didn’t bother taking her blue tooth out of her ear, apparently just in case there was something more important than talking with her son’s teachers about the fight he started in class (oh yeah, we were there to discuss another fight).
It went a little something like this:
“If you say that to me one more time, I’m going to hit you,” Nate declared.
Guess what? The other student (I’ve got a post coming about him too!) said whatever “it” was one more time…
Nate got out of his seat (all of this happened while I was trying to teach) and hit the kid in the back of the head with a closed fist.
This was my first fight that happened in my room. I told Nate to go to the office, while I went over to the student he hit, checked if he was ok, and asked him to go outside so I could talk to him.
I think I handled the situation as appropriately as a first year teacher could. This was one of the many issues we wanted to talk to Nate’s mom about. Other issues we were going to address with Nate’s mother included: cursing at teachers and students, not coming to class prepared, skipping class and not pulling up his pants when asked to by teachers.
The assistant principal began the meeting by thanking her for coming and all the other formalities that come with a meeting of this kind.
I remember how hard it was to keep a straight face in the light of everything that was being said and especially the tone at which it was being said. I was only 24 at the time, and still could get a case of the “man giggles” when the conditions were just right. After trying to think about something else besides the current situation, Nate began to cry. Then his mom (who still has her blinking blue-tooth in her ear and reflective driver/construction vest on) said, “Look at Nate, he’s crying.” In a voice that was one part Maury Povich-guest-vindicated-by-paternal-test-results and another part “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” she said, “You’re not so tough now, are you Nate?” “Everyone look at these tears.”
Then she said something that made me want to leave and go home and curl up in the fetal position and cry: “You know what?” (still in that Maury-Ain’t-Nobody-Tone) – “There’s going to be no Christmas for Nate.” If there was anything that a child could hear that would irreversibly change the trajectory of their life it was that phrase: “There’s going to be no Christmas, Nate.”
Dude. She did it. She said it. I wanted to be anywhere but here in front of a kid that is having Christmas taken away. Nate’s eyes began overflowing with tears, but he didn’t cry, he just let gravity do the work.