When your students make (really!) bad choices…

Today one of my students was arrested for seriously injuring another student by dropping a rock of a balcony at school just after my class.

I am waffling between angry and grief that one of my most promising students would continue to make such horrible decisions. I have had students in jail before (including this particular student last fall), but this one situation seems extremely poignant since he will most likely spend the next few years in jail – he is currently a freshmen and will have thrown away his opportunity for a high school education.

There were two redeeming moments for me amongst the police reports, meetings with the Dean’s, and general emotional angst:

  1. The policemen asked if there was anything I wanted to tell my student and I had the opportunity to remind him that he is bright and has potential, that I am so sad by his choices, and that if he ever needs help getting back on track with school, I will always be ready to help.
  2. A student who was accused of being a part of the incident was trying to convince the Dean’s he didn’t do it – his last desperate plea with tear filled eyes was to call me in because he was confident that I would be honest and trustworthy…my credibility with my students helped the investigation to finish quickly.

So, tomorrow I head back to school and start the day with 2nd period – half of the class was interrogated today, so I am sure we’ll have to have a conversation about the situation. I’m still not quite sure what to say and there will probably be tears (again), but hopefully the incident will be a wake up call to all our students who make really dumb choices.

Being a teacher – especially one in an impoverished school like mine – is like being a foster parent; they may not be my biological children, but I will defend them fiercely and always love them. I will also mourn when they make bad choices and have to suffer the consequences.

It’s going to take me a long time to process and cope with the day’s events. I hope it will be a moment for my students to reflect on their personal goals and the choices that will help and hinder those goals becoming a reality.

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