Something is wrong. Not small-time wrong, not wrong wrong like I forgot to send a Mother’s Day card, but life wreckingly wrong. The “system” in all its nefarious glory is destroying the lives of my students, and all I can do is watch. I have a student whose life is being molded by the failures of society. While my student wasn’t an angel, he definitely doesn’t deserve the damning changes and decisions that were and are made for him. While I really feel powerless to DO anything, I must say something.
Student M is 16 and just started his first job. He’s ED like the rest of my crew, but is relatively calm and shows effort in his schoolwork. M has the highest reading and math levels in my class and I’m really lobbying to get him moved into inclusion next September. M is the only student in my class who has never been disrespectful towards me, even when I am at my most demanding (or oblivious) as a teacher.
This week M brought in some photos to “show and tell.” Sonogram images. Four months old. My head was reeling, all I could think was that my student convieved while I was his teacher…why didn’t I tell him to be safe? Hell, why didn’t I discretely give him condoms? Why am I teaching freakin’ Ancient Greece BS when this kid’s life is going to revolve around providing for this child? Why didn’t I (or anyone!) teach this kid about not getting a girl pregnant? Oh wait…I remember now: Staff of my school was told to “emphasize abstinence” and only two people in the school were authorized to give out condoms, and only from 8:00-8:50AM or after school.
Teenagers have sex. Fact of life. Students with emotional disturbances have sex too, if not more sex, more often, with more people. I see it in my classroom, I see the students carrying photos of their babies, it’s not a secret. Why?! Why are we teaching abstinence to fragile students who are getting crazy like rabbits in the stairwell? Who does this serve? M is a bright student, M should be allowed to be 16, not worry about being a father next October. I had to leave the room when he told me.
“How do you feel about, M,” I asked.
He cast his eyes downward briefly, and he responded with a heartfelt “ I dunno.”
“Are you scared?” I inquired, never expecting him to answer.
“A little,” M said. And he collected his pictures and went to show someone else, conversation over. We haven’t spoken of it since, but it haunts my thoughts whenever I look at the boy. I can’t help him. What can I do?