Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

One Bad Apple

Written By: Anachan - Oct• 04•13

Friday was an exceptionally tough day to be a teacher.

The entire week was Homecoming Week, which meant everything was especially chaotic, with extra hours put in by just about every teacher.  As the only junior class sponsor with a classroom–and tables, to boot, rather than desks–my room was transformed every day after school into a place to create and paint posters for hall decorating or banners for the junior class float in the parade.  Many classes were interrupted by the efforts to contribute to the hall decorating, and not much in the way of actual academics could happen, because the attention of the entire student body was elsewhere.

I was very tired by the time Friday rolled around, as I had remained late at the school two days that week, supervising, advising, and assisting students in their decorating efforts. Knowing afternoon classes had been cancelled in favor of a pep assembly and parade, I did not plan anything for my morning classes, which spent the time reading, working on other school work, or painting last-minute float banners.  I floated around my room, talking to students on everything from Homecoming to what should be done if they think a teacher had treated them unfairly, cleaning paintbrushes which had been discarded from the previous hour as students rushed to avoid being tardy in their next classes, and grading the tests which had been completed on Thursday.  (And, I might add, shaking my head at the number of students who had, predictably, not studied Wednesday evening, as they had said they would.)  Knowing I was scheduled to help run the concession stand that evening, and knowing my cell phone battery would not last the entire time without some charging, I plugged my cell phone in to my computer.

Sometime during fourth hour, right before lunch, I suddenly realized my cell phone was not where I remembered leaving it.  I searched everywhere I habitually placed it–my purse, my pocket, and on my desk–but it was nowhere to be found.  Leaving a neighboring teacher listening to the few people in my room, I ran out to my car on the off-chance I was remembering plugging it in incorrectly, but it was not there, either.  My daughter confirmed that I had brought it to school, saying she had used it as a calculator on the drive there.  Once again, I searched the piles of paper on my desk, hoping it had simply been lost among the stacks, but to no avail.

I asked one of my students if I could borrow her cell phone to call mine.  She willingly obliged, but when I dialed, there was no sound in my room.  As I leave my ringer on, this confirmed my phone was not in my classroom.

By lunchtime, I had to face the fact my phone had probably been stolen.  Why someone would want to steal a phone which had a badly cracked screen was beyond my comprehension.  Other teachers asked if someone bore me a grudge, and while I couldn’t answer conclusively, I had to admit it could be a possibility.

Fellow teachers advised I report it immediately, even if it turned out later on I had only misplaced it, so I did.  I knew I had to suspend service on the number, but I did not have my home phone number memorized to call my husband and ask for his assistance, so I figured I had better borrow my daughter’s iPhone.  Unfortunately, she had a number lock on her phone, and she was in the cafeteria, eating lunch.  Foregoing lunch myself (I didn’t feel like eating, anyway), I headed over to the cafeteria.

On my way, I met a couple of young men from my 3rd hour class and asked them if they had seen my phone.  One of them commented that he remembered having seen it plugged in to my computer, but the only people they had seen behind my desk that hour had been a couple of junior girls whom I had sent there to pick up a pair of scissors.

“Don’t worry, Miss,”  they said.  “We know what your phone looks like.  We’ll keep our eyes open for it.”

With a grateful smile, I continued on my way.  After picking up my daughter’s iPhone, I sent the students to the pep assembly and decided to ditch it in favor of getting my cell phone service suspended.  It took a few machinations to finally accomplish this, but it was finally done, and I started toward the gym so as not to be considered AWOL by my boss.

Walking into the gym, listening to the noise of students responding to the cheerleaders’ shouts, enhanced even further by the presence of the middle school and elementary school students, the last thing in my heart was school spirit.  For years before I had started teaching, I had heard reports of what a horrible place this school was, with pregnant teenagers, drugs, bullies, etc.  I had even once stated that I would rather homeschool than allow my daughters to attend.

However, after starting work at this school the previous year, I had found myself defending the school to many people, telling them it was not nearly as horrible a place as had been reported.  Sure, there were some kids who used drugs, but not at school.  And there was the occasional pregnant teenager, but to be honest, the reason the other school in the county didn’t have any pregnant teenagers was because these girls would then leave that school and come to ours.  The kids were, for the most part, delightfully respectful and polite, and I had experienced great acceptance and love from them.

So after all I had done, defending them against the naysayers, how could one of them violate me to the point where he/she would steal my cell phone?  Had I completely misjudged the caliber of kids in this school?  Was I so quixotic that I was blind to the true nature of my students?  After all, just a few days earlier, I had trusted a student to take some noxious trash out to the dumpster, and he had taken the opportunity to smoke, get caught, and be sent to in-school suspension.

I sat in the pep assembly, my arms  and legs crossed, fighting tears, not daring to walk across the gym to my proper place by the junior class, where I had historically shouted and done my best to encourage the students to participate in the activities.  There would be no way I could be enthusiastic, and my students would notice.  (As a matter of fact, they did notice, even across the gym.)

The yelling and enthusiasm bounced off me, grating on my nerves, and I knew this was something I was just going to have to endure.

The cheerleaders finished leading their spirit competition, and the activity changed.  Each class, two classes at a time, was to send a representative to the floor for an activity involving a tricycle, ridden across the gym while circling around wastebaskets along the way, and a basketball layup.  After the layup, the participants would race their tricycles back to the starting point, and the winner would be announced.

When the high school classes had finished their runs, the organizers of the pep assembly realized they had more time, so they asked for volunteers from the middle school grades.  First, 7th and 8th grade representatives competed, then representatives from the 5th and 6th grades, with the variation that they had high school students doing their layups for them.

Finally, they called for representatives from the 3rd and 4th grades, the youngest students in attendance.  One of the football players proposed a slight variation.  There was a boy in that age group who was confined to a wheelchair.  Instead of having students ride the tricycles, he proposed that he push this child in his wheelchair, while another football player pushed another student on a tricycle.  The proposal was accepted, and the participants were off!

It was more difficult for the team with the tricycle, so the football player pushing the wheelchair made certain to not completely outstrip the other team as he ran along, circling the wastebaskets.  The high school students making the lay-ups did their job, and the two teams headed back to the starting line, almost neck and neck.  The moment before he crossed it first, the tiny boy in the wheelchair pumped his fists into the air, his face the very picture of pure joy and elation.

At this image of the football player pushing this young boy in a wheelchair across the finish line–a young boy who had all his life been left on the sidelines–tears sprang to my eyes.  One of the nearby teachers noticed and said, “That moment there makes it all worth it, doesn’t it?”

The dam which had been holding back my tears burst, and I hurried out the side door.  I found a secluded corner around the outside of the gym and stood there, letting my heart cry itself out behind my sunglasses.  It was true that someone had broken my trust and violated my faith, and it was all right to mourn that fact, but I could not let it color my impression of the rest of the students in the school.  The majority were still good kids, despite some less fortunate circumstances or a lack of motivation.

Despite the old saying, in this case, I couldn’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch for me.

No, my day wasn’t over, but from that point on, I could face it with more composure.  I smiled at the parade, helped prepare the concession stand with my fellow junior class sponsors, persuaded my daughters to help me clean the remnants of paint off my classroom tables, took the girls to get sub sandwiches for dinner, listened with half an ear to the required annual safety training on bloodborne pathogens while locating vocabulary words for sophomore English class, worked at the concession stand until the end of the Homecoming game, and gathered up trash bags from the stands after the game.

And after all that, my husband and I went to the Homecoming dance with our daughter, demonstrating to the students what it really meant to dance the cha-cha, cumbia, and two-step, smiling the whole time.

 

Update:

I’m sure you are wondering if anything more came of this incident.

Many people have said criminals usually do not display the best intelligence, and, luckily for me, it was no different in this case.

I reported the loss to the principal, who questioned the most likely suspects and found nothing.  I came to grips with the idea the phone was lost, and I would just have to deal with not having a phone.  That said, I did circulate the description of the phone and the most likely suspects to my fellow faculty members, in case one of them should see something.

A few weeks later, one of them did.

The perpetrator (or, should I say, the alleged perpetrator) came to class with it.  The teacher, knowing this student, one of my suspects, had not historically had a phone, and thinking it too coincidental that his “new” phone should be the same kind as mine, with a cracked screen, reported it to the principal.  After checking the serial number against the number our cell phone provider gave me, the principal called the police.

Best of all, I got my phone back.  There were a few more cracks in the screen, most likely caused when the student decided to remove the screen protector (why do that?), and I was sad to have lost all my pictures from my summer science camp, but once more, I had communication capability.

I still use that phone, although I now lock my screen.

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