Dear Secret Blogiary,
Without fail, every year I am accused of being a racist.
Without exception the student that accuses me of this is always a black boy who has been diagnosed as OHI: a nebulous label that essentially means the child has been diagnosed with an unknown behavioral disorder that is not a learning disability.
These are the students who are not disciplined according to the Code of Conduct because they “can’t be held accountable for their actions.” These are the students whose parents offer no support at school and tell us they’re our problem between 9:30 and 4pm.
Personally, these are the kids that desperately need to be held accountable for their actions because we are doing them a grave disservice. We allow them to continue without consequence and then shake our heads sadly when those same kids become a statistic.
The group of kids I have this year have been a problematic group since they were in sixth grade. The 6th grade teachers warned the 7th grade teachers last year and then in turn the 7th grade teachers warned us. Disrespectful, Disruptive, Disinterested, the three D’s heard over and over for the class of 2014. The 8th grade teachers came down hard the first few weeks but nothing seems to faze them as a whole. I typically end up spending most of the class dealing with behavior problems.
Clarence has been a problem since day one. Every other word from his is a curse. He thinks nothing of making sexual comments to both girls and boys in the class. He exhibits violent tendencies, immediately jumping to his feet the moment he perceives a “challenge.” He is a bully, he makes threatening gestures and comments. He refuses to do any work and cares not at all about his grade.
I have used all my interventions: changing seats, time outs, parent contact, referrals. Nothing works. Maybe if he was the only problem OHI student in the class (he is one of 12). Maybe if I was the only teacher having an issue with him, I could just suck it up and deal with it, but every teacher on my team has trouble with him. Maybe if I had administrative support and Clarence received consequences instead of “conferencing” he might settle down.
Today, I had enough. I sent him and a few others to the office and wrote more referrals. When they strode back into class right before lunch, Clarence danced in, his pants sagging down to his calves and with every step he stopped and thrust his hips forward sexually. I told him to stop and sit down and he just laughed and said he was “dancing.”
I just gritted my teeth and glanced at the clock. Only a few minutes until lunch, I thought, and I wrapped up class as best that I could. A few minutes later we were out the door, down the hall, standing in line waiting to go into the cafeteria.
I happened to be standing near Clarence.
“Mrs. W. I think you racist.”
“Really?” I reply, indifferent. “Why do you say that?”
“You don’t like me ‘cause I’m black.”
“No, Clarence, I dislike everyone equally.” I say. It is my standard response to the kids that try to pull a race card with me. I have no tolerance for those types of games.
“Really? ‘Cause you yell at me all the time. You mean, too, you always pickin’ on me.”
“Because you are disruptive. And I’m not “picking” on you, I am attempting to redirect your behavior.” Why I try to reason or explain myself is perplexing.
I moved forward in along the line getting my “wanderers” back into line. While I was doing this, another student, David, a tall gangly black boy came rushing up to me.
“Mrs. W.!” He cried out giving me a big hug.
David is also labeled OHI but his “behavior problem” is a deep need for constant attention and if he doesn’t get it, he fidgets and calls out, so while disruptive, he does follow most of the class procedures and has not once been rude or disrespectful to me or any other student.
I give David a quick one armed pat and ask him how his day has been.
He smiles down at me (did I mention this kid is TALL? Taller I think than Mister W.) and says, “Been good so far, Ma’am. Lookin’ forward to lunch.”
“Me too,” I reply as he rejoins his class in line.
Immediately after David walks off Clarence steps forward his arms open.
My eyes narrow and I step back and say, “Get. Away. From. Me.” Each word is enunciated, pointed and hard.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said it like that. I was harsh and rude. But I had had enough of him.
“Oh,” Clarence spit out, “You’ll give David a hug.”
“Yup. I like him.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that either.
Clarence steps toward me again and I glare at him, turn and walk away.
I got to thinking about his comment though later on. There is no way I could have taught for as long as I have at my school if I was racist. I work in a minority school and the population is roughly 85 percent black.
As a teacher, I am supposed to be fair and unbiased toward the students. And regarding grades and discipline I am 100 percent fair and balanced (like Fox but with less snark). But I am also a human. And I’ve got feelings. So, yeah, I’ll readily admit I have kids that I adore – black, white or green! And I have kids that I dislike intensely; I try not to hate, but sometimes I do. And as much as I try not to let my feelings show, it is really hard to pretend I have anything but disgust and loathing for a certain few.
Does that make me a racist?
According to Dictionary.com racism is:
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
So by definition, I am not. I just have intolerance for this one particular kid.