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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

not even a whisper

A parent/teacher meeting was announced at E's school. At 6:30 on a cold Friday night, we ducked into the building. The hallways were empty. The rows of lockers stood silent. She told me how many flights it was to her classroom as we climbed the stairs, our footsteps echoing. 

Out of twenty five children, only six other parents were there. They huddled around the teacher's desk, sweaters wrapped tight around them. I needed E to translate for me, so we made our way to the back of the room, hoping our whispers would not disturb anyone. We yanked our hats off, and settled in. I smelled ammonia and cheap perfume.

The teacher had a constant sigh stretched across her face. Her blonde hair hung limp against her ears. She stopped the joking chatter and cleared her throat. She talked about the boy that died, and how two weeks of investigation had uncovered the fact that he took some gum from a stranger on the school playground and there were narcotics in it. Nothing more. There was some additional warnings explained. The faces nodded, hands folded carefully over each other.
There were no questions.

The conversation turned quickly to the errors happening on the school website when grades are posted there. There were constant complaints from the mothers about homework assignments, about harsh grading from one teacher, then another teacher. The room filled with people talking over each other about math homework, a cacophony of pleas and examples raised. But for that 15 year old boy, not even a whisper.






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