When an A student plummets to an F student, when their attendance drops off a cliff, when their demeanor changes from one of youthful, sunny, brightness to quiet, somber stoicism you just know something is wrong.
Jennie (not her real name) just hit that nail on the head. So, as I always do, I pressed her to find out, “What’s up?”
Turns out she was walking around our school about 2 months ago long after the day had ended, iPod in her ear looking for a private corner to read one of the books for my class (the irony of that it was the book Speak is just too thick) when 3 boys — she is not even sure if they went to this school — tried to rape her.
“Tried” she said. (Yep, it happened on campus — we have a really large facility, lots and lots of nook and crannies.) But she also mentioned she had “surgery” a few minutes later in her disjointed description so a part of me fears that they were successful. Details were convoluted to say the least and I am not going to go deeply into them because really, what the F*&% difference does it make? A young girl, a student of mine, was violated.
Stories like this used to break my back. And they still do but I have matured enough to realize that the pain resides with the student before it does with me and so I recognize that my role is to best serve the needs of Jennie as they stand now and not wallow in the moral implications that events like this have for me, personally, or society at large. And so I did my best to say some very encouraging things, offer all a bunch of resources (counseling, therapists, police, etc…) and so on.
Let me tell you, this girl Jennie would make any parent or teacher proud — and the fact that sexual assault is so prevalent in American society is something that just rips me up. I mean when she told me the story, she did it from a perspective of blaming herself. About how she shouldn’t have been walking around alone long after most folks were off campus, about how she should have known better and so on.
Makes me ashamed. Of my school. Of my city. Of my state. Of my nation. And the thing is, today was a day whereby I started with a ton of pep in my step, a day I was ready to really teach from the rooftops. And now… well how am I supposed to feel?
In so many ways, this incident is not about me and I feel selfish for feeling so hurt. Then again, when something like this happens to any kid, a part of our collective hearts simply sinks.
Some people are already on summer vacation. Some of us are still in the salt mines. Yet no matter where we are, this stuff stings… and when-oh-when will this nuttiness stop.
In Karma I trust. That’s where I take solace. At some point, in some way, at some time, karma… it gets us all. I think this belief is at the core of where I find the strength to go on and not leave the teaching profession. I mean I love teaching, but this stuff kills me.