Monday, January 18, 2010

A long week

Last week was one of the longest and most difficult I've experienced as an educator. The first source of stress was the closing of Second Quarter grades. The second was our monthly faculty meeting, although that really wasn't as stressful as much as it was simply a time commitment. Despite much of the negative publicity that seems to surround teachers and faculty meetings, it's my feeling that our principal really tries to make our meetings as relevant and engaging as possible. For the most part, he succeeds at this task. I can honestly say I actually enjoy some of these meetings!

The third stressor was the fact that we weren't allowed to use our computers because a Trojan had infected the entire network. This was a MAJOR problem for me, as so much of what I do in the classroom is dependent on technology. It appears that most computers have been fixed, but the mini-lab in my room still needs to pass a clean bill of health before I can reconnect to the network. Given that my 9th grade students are working on short stories, I really need the ability to do word processing. They could initially write their stories by hand, but eventually I want the stories posted to their class blogs, so the sooner we have the ability to get them into digital form, the better.

The greatest stressor though, the one that really puts those above three items into perspective, is that one of my students, a 15-year-old freshman, killed herself. It's an unbelievably tragic event that has really rocked my world and the school community. While some of my peers have met tragic ends  - via cancer, a motorcycle accident, and suicide by hanging - I've never had a student so young die, let alone take her own life.

The circumstances surrounding why she killed herself are complicated, and currently under investigation by local and state authorities. As such, I'm reluctant to say much more. I do know that the word of her death devastated me for the past few days. I found myself thinking about her constantly, searching for some kind of insight or solace. One of the last things she said to me involved a conversation she had had with a former student of mine. "Mitch said I'm really lucky to have you as a teacher," she told me. I told her I appreciated the sentiment, and that I enjoyed having Mitch in class. What I wanted to tell her, what was on the tip of my tongue, what I would have said had I not at that moment been distracted by one of my other students, was that I was equally as lucky to have her as a student.

15 comments:

msmackie said...

You touched her enough for her to express that sentiment to you. I'm sorry, and as a fellow English teacher, my heart goes out to you.

Clare said...

Nothing wise to say except I'm sorry. Another English teacher

Mr. B-G said...

Ms. Mackie and Clare - Thanks for the warm sentiments. I still find it hard to believe I won't see her again. It's one thing when an older adult is on the way out (you have time to prepare yourself), but with a young kid like this it's jarring and tragic.

I hope she's found the peace that seemed to elude her in this world.

Jackie said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. I have had to wrestle with this possibility for the first time this year, and it is beyond distressing.

Greenman said...

I offer my condolences for the loss of your student. It is especially tragic considering her young age. I'm so sorry.

Mr. B-G said...

Jackie, I am sorry you too had to experience something like that this year.

Bill, your condolences are appreciated. I hope things are well for you and Elizabeth in PA.

T Dawg said...

So sorry, man. We spent the whole day in my Journalism class talking about bullying. What a sad, sad situation...

Epiphany in Baltimore said...

Moving post. My thoughts are with you.

Southpaw said...

My friend,
I share your sorrow in a few different ways. Toward the end of my first year of teaching, one of my students had been battling heroin. It was a long battle. he came to me one day and told me that he was sorry that he would be missing so many classes, but that he needed to go to rehab. I touched him on his shoulder, told him that my thoughts would be with him and that I looked forward to him coming back. A few months passed and he came back to my class. He even began to take an interest in oedipus. Over the summer, I was reading the local newspaper and learned that he had died of an overdose. I rocked me and really got me thinking about what my students dealt with beyond the cinderblock walls of my humble classroom. That one moment, student changed my life and perceptions of the struggles our kids face on a daily basis. It reminds me to remember that they are human and need our gentle care and support. I share your pain BG and I, too mourn for the loss of "our" student. Hang in there and know that you are not alone and that your fellow teachers and other students are with you and need you!

Art Courses said...

It's a very stressful week indeed. So sad to hear about your students death. She's too young for her to decide to take her own life.

M. said...

Thank you for posting this. My heart goes out to you. You sound like an incredible teacher. I offer my deepest sympathy for your loss.

Mr. B-G said...

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful and supportive comments.

I hope that time will lessen the burden of her loss, and that our school community can become more mindful and accepting.

Aspiring visual arts/literature educator said...

I admire you in so many ways. This tragedy lead me to your blog, I must admit. You are a fantastic example for people hoping to enter the field of education in the arts. I am a young visual arts major and would-be writer devoted to entering education in one or both of those realms. The connections that exist between teachers in the arts and their students is something unique in the field, I think. Perhaps, the pedagogy of an arts/lit educator simply lends itself to intimacy. As the English teacher of this student, you were connected to her in ways that other teachers won't understand. You lost her, but lucky you - you knew her! I crave that kind of intimate power. You can craft young minds and they can equally craft your own and change how *you* see the world and how *you* want to impact the world. Thank you for being a great example.
-student and future arts educator living abroad

Mr. B-G said...

Aspiring,

Thank you for your kind and gracious comments. They are much appreciated during this tragic and tumultuous time.

Your temperament - as reflected here in your comment - makes me think you have the makings of a compassionate and effective educator. Best of luck in your studies and future career.

Mr. B-G

Anonymous said...

Phoebe really loved you as a teacher. she loved english and always wanted to become a writer.
she told me many time how wonderful it was to have you as an english teacher because you helped her alot.
she was very greatful for you as her teacher as english was one of her favourite subjects.