First student I needed to win over! I usually write about my students to my dear friend Kathy. I start them with Dear Kathy. Hope you find them interesting.
I moved to my new apartment Saturday and started getting my classroom fixed up. There are huge bulletin boards and I had no idea what to put on them. I had to make everything myself and of course, you know, I have no artistic ability. I think this school is amazing. It smells like our old elementary school and I know, I love it.
I took Karen with me and she helped me put paper on the bulletin boards. A nice middle-aged man who teaches the third grade came in and talked to me. He was all smiles as he told me that he moved out of “my new classroom” because of Chuckie. (After the school started the kids told me that they called him ‘frog eyes’ because when he got mad at them his eyes bulged like a frog croaking. They were right! HaHa)
Old Frog Eyes told me, “On Chuckie’s first day of Kindergarten he walked in the classroom. Stood there with his legs apart, arms crossed over his chest and a wild look in his eyes. He slowly turned his head to survey the area. Then he spoke, ‘God damn it, you people think you gunna teach me? Make me sit? Make me do shit? I got my rights you know. You ain’t gonna be fuck’n push’n me round.” Frog Eyes said that Chuckie was too hard to handle. He guessed that Chuckie was doing that hoping he would be sent home and told to stay there. Poor Chuckie had a rude awakening!
According to Old Frog Eyes, Chuckie was moved immediately to a “Special Education Classroom” where he stayed until this year. He had been taught appropriate language for school, how to read and do math. His behavior was still challenging. “Chuckie has fits and throws things around the classroom. He yells and sometimes swears. He is a huge problem and I took advantage of the opportunity to transfer to the third grade where I could avoid the headache.”
Okay, now I was afraid. I wondered how to control the wild boy. Yikes! I went to the office to see the principal, my new best friend! where I asked him for guidance.
“That is exactly why I wanted an older man to teach that class. I put a bunch of boys in your class to see if you could be a good teacher. If I was teaching Chuckie I would make a ‘dunce cap’ and make him sit on a stool facing the corner of the classroom when he got out of control. I would grab him, lift him up and put him hard on that stool.” He was smiling at the thought. I was not.
I didn’t even know enough to ask to read his records. I was out of my element.
The bulletin boards were done and lesson plans were made. I had every minute of the week planned out. The first day was Monday – I had only three days to move, set up the classroom and be ready to teach. I started to see why teachers are paid by salary not by the hour, because they couldn’t afford to pay me for all the hours I work. I love all of this and don’t mind spending the extra time as I learn.
Chuckie walked into my classroom with his granny – that is the only way to describe her. She was dressed in pants that had no hem but were torn and ragged on the bottom. She had her hand on his head and asked the nearest kid who the teacher was. I do look young but I was the oldest person in the classroom. Oh, come on, get a grip already, right?
“This is Chuckie. He is a bad boy and won’t listen to a word you say. I don’t want you sending him home if he is bad. I want him to stay here. I don’t have the gas money to be bringing him. He rides the bus and he gets free lunch. You think you can do that?” Chuckies Granny Said
“My name is Sally Myers. Please call me Sally. Is there anything I need to know that will me to teach Chuckie?”
“He don’t do no homework. He got’s chore to do at home so don’t send stuff. He don’t have no electricity in his spot so he can’t do no work in the dark. His dad is with him and he wants to come meet you, too. Outside of that Chuckie is alright when he can do what he wants.” Wow, negative and why no electricity? I didn’t ask! I think Granny was surprised I asked for advice. She acted like she wanted to run out of the classroom!
Then I turned to Chuckie, “I am excited to meet you Chuckie. I think that Chuckie is going to be very happy in our class this year. I know it is a change but Chuckie is ready for it. Aren’t you Chuckie?”
“Well, Missus” OH MY WORD, I wish you could hear his voice. It sounds like a frog. A hillbilly scratchy voiced frog. He talks very slowly and deliberately “I guess I will give you a try. Lots of kids in here. I like that. Where do you want me to sit?”
Oh golly, I smiled. The granny gave me a look of pity and off she went. I asked Chuckie to sit in one of the front chairs. I wanted him to be where I would be able to keep a sharp eye on him.
He wrote like a first grader but the content was very interesting. That day I asked the kids to write in their new journals about themselves. I specifically wanted them to tell me things that they wanted me to know about themselves. I told them that I was going to read their journals every day and put a smiley face on them or star if they wrote enough. If they didn’t write enough they would be asked to stay in at recess and write more.
Chuckie took my assignment to heart. Oh, I forgot. I also gave each kid a hand made spelling book. I put all the spelling words for the year on alphabetized pages. Then I stapled the pages together. They could ask me to spell words for them and I would write them in their little dictionaries so they could find them again.
The kids were quiet and writing as I wandered around the room watching them. Chuckie raised his hand the very minute I told them to write. “Hey Missus, How do you spell chicken coop?” I smiled and wrote it down for him. He is so loud all the kids giggled – heck I wanted to giggle too.
Before I could turn away, “Hey Missus, How do you spell Harley Davidson Motorcycle? Don’t leave I need you to spell more for me. I need,” and he took his skinny little pointer finger and motioned for me to come closer. When I was within an inch of him he whispered in a very loud scratchy frog voice. “I want to know if I can write Hell’s Angels? It ain’t no swear word if it is someone’s name, right?”
Yep, it would only happen to me. A kid swearing within the first ten minutes of my career. What was I supposed to say? What was the rule? Yikes! I decided it was okay for him to write it but I didn’t put the word Hell’s in his dictionary. I wrote it for him on the paper. “Chuckie, if I write it you won’t get in any trouble because you didn’t write it. Is that okay with you?”
“Yup Missus, I gotta stay clean for my dad.”
So, it ends up that Chuckie is a great kid. He has outbursts and flies into a rage throwing his books across the room when he is frustrated. I have it all worked out. If the whole class is quiet and tries to keep working when Chuckie has his fit they will earn class points for a party. If Chuckie disrupts his (or the classes) learning. I look at the clock and he owes me two minutes for every one minute it takes him to clean up the mess and get back to work.
You would crack up if you saw him. Today he threw his math book across the room. I looked up at the clock. He said in his froggy voice. “I know Missus, two minutes for every minute. I think that is a rip off. You must like to have me around a lot. What does a guy have to do to get a recess around here?” and as he mumbled the entire class stared at their books and papers. When he finished his comments he was back to work. Only owed me eight minutes.
I love Chuckie. Every day we write in our journals. I give them topics to write about and every day Chuckie asks me if he can finish writing about himself so I can “gets to know him”.
Here is the shocking truth. His dad came in to meet me. He wore a leather jacket, jeans and had a long scrubby looking bears and mustache. He told me that he wanted to know how Chuckie was doing in school. I kind of like the dad. It is unusual for a dad to come in and actually ask how their kid is doing. I was at lunch and so I sat down and asked him to tell me about Chuckie.
“Well, I haven’t been around him for the last four years cus I just got outa prison. I was put there cuz I got into the Hell’s Angels and they robbed a store and used a gun and I was there so we all went to prison. I got out a few days ago and got Chuckie. We got a nice place to stay in the back of my folks house. He aint got much stuff right now cus nobody got him stuff. I want his life to be better than mine.”
“Okay if he calls you, the Missus?”
“Sure it is fine, I like his funny personality.”
“Most of them teachers thought he was being disrespectful. Good you can understand him.”
This is where it gets kind of weird. He told me that he was fixing up their little house – he was getting ready to get running water and a sink. You know we grew up in so much wealth compared to these people. He finally told me that they lived in a chicken coop. I told him that Chuckie had written about that but I wondered if it was true.
His dad wanted books to read to him every night. He said he only read easy books himself but he could tell a story about picture books. I volunteered to send books that he and Chuckie could practice together so he could become a better reader.
I am out of my element. I feel so shocked by the poverty and living conditions of these kids. Chuckie is doing great though.
I drove past the address they gave for Chuckie and thought that Chuckie was tough. He would help his grandparents with their livestock and gardens and they would invite the two of them for dinner. Chuckie’s mother was in prison and expected to be there for ten more years. Chuckie would be a full grown man by then.
Some of the things still shock me. Chuckie had never been in a class with more than twelve kids. He was pretty isolated and didn’t know how to play games. On rainy days I showed him how to play BlackJack – well I called it 21. We used fake money for betting. I called it a math lesson. The kids loved it, so did I.
Chuckie didn’t know any of the fairytales or fables that we grew up hearing. I read one a day to the entire class. Some of the kids are great readers and they bring in books they want me to read to them. It is so much fun. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “They pay me to play with kids all day! What a great job!” Of course I can barely make it with my $356 a month. Man!
Sorry this was sort of depressing. I will keep up with Chuckie as the year flows.