On adult responsibility

Before I get too far into the meat of this post, I want to say something that will, perhaps, not endear me to some of you. News media have gotten some abuse for using the photograph on the right of this person rather than his post-apprehension mug shot on the left, a supposedly humanizing touch that is never, ever granted to mass murderers when they are people of color.

I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but the picture on the right screams “school shooter” to me every bit as much as the picture on the left. That kid is visibly deeply fucked up; there is nothing at all behind his eyes, and the fact that he’s holding his hands in a posture of prayer, to me, just means that he’s coming from an environment where it’s incredibly unlikely that he’s actually going to get any help for whatever is wrong with him.

I got into a Twitter conversation the other day with someone, and in that conversation made the point that my ability to feel shared humanity with and compassion for terrible people had diminished significantly over the last five years. And the interesting thing about that tweet is that the one immediately before it is about a discovery that I had made about the family of a former student. I had found out a couple of years ago that this particular kid had been locked up for thirteen years (minimum) for armed robbery. Yesterday I discovered that his little brother, who I never had in class but I knew, has been convicted of murder and was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

My student, as it turns out, was also sentenced as an adult. This school shooter, 15 years old, is also going to be tried as an adult.

This kid who, either the day of or the day before the shooting, wrote “The voices won’t stop. Help me.” on a note, a note that led to him receiving no help of any kind. The kid whose parents bought him a semiautomatic handgun for Christmas four days before he used it to kill four people. The kid whose parents are such subhuman trash that upon finding out they were being charged as accessories to their son’s murders, went on the lam and attempted to flee the country.

Imagine that. Imagine that your child is charged with murder and your reaction is to leave him behind and run.

And as angry as I am with his parents, I’m even angrier with the school officials at Oxford High School. Their most important job is to keep their students safe. That responsibility extends to the shooter as well as the other students in the school. The very first thing that should have happened upon this not being discovered is this kid being brought to the attention of mental health professionals and social workers– the first fucking thing, even before notifying the parents. I’m seeing that his mother and father resisted removing him from school. That’s where the “protect everyone else” thing kicks in– yes, you are going to take your son to get some help, and if you refuse to do so, he is not entering this building again. I have not been in this exact situation before but I have been in some that are very close, and schools are absolutely within their rights to refuse to allow a child back on campus until a psych evaluation has taken place. And when a student combines hearing voices with violent imagery and an explicit request for help, it is absolutely criminal on the part of the parents and the administration of Oxford High School that he was allowed to remain on campus.

This is unforgivable. It is a dereliction of responsibility at the highest level and it led directly to four dead kids.

I don’t know what to do with a fifteen-year-old who murders. Part of me is screaming for vengeance the same way it might be had a fully capable adult performed the killings. Part of me is still trying to hold onto the scrap of me that can still see humanity in those who perform inhumane acts. And ultimately as the person who pulled the trigger, the greatest responsibility falls upon him. But the failure of every adult in this young man’s life cannot be passed over. The parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter; bury them under the jail and let their names never be spoken again.

But it should not end there. Early reports in situations like this are always wrong in some way; it may turn out that my understanding of what happened is flawed in some critical way. But if the events unfolded according to the timeline I’m currently aware of, all of the adults who had a responsibility to keep this child and those around him safe should face consequences for their actions. All of them.

In which that might have worked, maybe, but I doubt it

We started the winter administration of the NWEA today. I’ve talked about this test a couple of times before, but the super-short version is that we give it three times a year and it is designed to mostly measure growth, which means that it gets around many of my normal gripes against standardized testing. I know that usually the first post of the month is the Monthly Reads for the previous month, but this is on my mind and I don’t feel like gathering up all the books I read, so we’ll do this today and that tomorrow.

Anyway, I have some reason to maybe, possibly be a little bit optimistic about my teaching this year? As of right now 47 of my 70 kids are done with the test; the rest were either absent today and haven’t started or didn’t get finished. They’ll have tomorrow (at least) to get that done, and I’ll probably be at 80% or so completion after two days.

As of right now, of those 47, only ten haven’t shown growth this year or at least held onto what they had, and of those ten, half only lost a single point. That’s not final numbers, of course, because I still have 23 kids to finish the test, and who knows how they’ll go, but right now this is on track to be my best winter administration of this test ever. Typically the way these things go for me is losses during the winter administration, then they make them back and end up with overall gains (as in, compared to the first administration) on the final one. I’ve never had a group look this good in the middle of the year.

So far. We’ll see if it holds up.

Oh right I have a job

I think I’m probably okay with considering today the last day of my break, seeing as how technically I do have to go to work tomorrow, but there will be no children there and we are just in training all day, and I’m pretty sure the day is ending early anyway. I got some grading and planning done today, and I’m not kvetching and Sundaying yet, but it’s only 7:30 and that word “yet” is kinda important.

Four days, five days, four days. Then Winter Break. Take ’em one day at a time and everything will be fine, right?

Well, that’s new and completely awful

I have been informed by my students that today’s events are the result of another fucking TikTok trend, but I have yet to actually encounter it anywhere on the site and I am certainly not about to go looking. I can only say that never once, in my entire teaching career, which began in the year 2000 and has spanned two cities, over a half-dozen schools and, conservatively, probably a few thousand kids, never once in all that time have I had to explain to Black children that yelling “White Power!” at the top of their lungs in the hallways or in the classrooms is perhaps not an entirely appropriate thing to do.

Until this week. Where I have had to do it more than once.

I am fucking tired.

See, here’s your problem

This happened.

Had a kid call me over to her seat today because she didn’t understand how to solve a problem on her assignment. I glanced at it, felt part of my soul die, and did my best to help her.

“Okay. The first problem here is that this is a true or false problem. Your answer is 3. Do you see why that’s wrong?”

I am fairly certain I have more white hair than I did when I left for work this morning, and I blame my students.