Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Crying In Room 304

Many of you don't know what it is I do for work (and when I say "many of you" I mean 6 out of the around 7 people or so who read this page), but I'm a school social worker for the Chicago Public Schools. I realize this is maybe the last thing you would guess that I do given my warped sense of humor, but I swear it's true.

So at the end of the day on Thursday, which was like a Friday because the next day was a teacher's institute day, I get the call from the principal to go into room 304. As I'm making my way to this assignment, I'm wondering what sort of class-wide problem I would be dealing with. This was not going to be an individual student's problem. Something went down for this whole class, so even if I was tired and not feeling up to this at all, I started to psych myself up so that I could step in there as Dr. Noisewater cranked to eleven and ready to command that room.

Even before I opened the door, I could hear the sobs of 30 (our school is overcrowded) fourth graders. The class rotates between two teachers, one teaching math and science, and the other teaching reading and writing. So who does social studies? I have no idea, but that's not important. What happened was this teacher's partner (their other teacher) across the hall announced that it was her last day, and she announced this by crying like crazy in front of children. Now this other poor teacher was stuck with hysterical kids picking up on that emotion and carrying on all afternoon, which must be why she called for backup.

So I did the type of crap they taught me to do in graduate school, but more accurately it's just instincts and common sense. First I validated their feelings, so I let them know it is okay to feel the way they were and that showed what a nice group of kiddos they were to care so much about their teacher. Then I asked them to tell me more about their teacher so that I could know too how special she was. They all had a lot of nice things to say. All I know about her is she taught at the school for one quarter and then took a maternity leave gig closer to her house. This is a move that I get so that she can cut her commute down and be with her family more, but there usually is no guarantee of a full time position when you fill a maternity leave position. So it seems risky, but maybe her spouse makes a lot of dough? I didn't get into that with the kids; It's just what was running through my head. Also I was thinking, if they think they are miserable now, just wait until they have some crummy permanent sub every day for 3/4 of the school year and everything will be chaos. That I didn't share either.

So then I started asking some ideas of what they could do to show how much they care for her. This is when hands started going up, and as their brains started firing with ideas, the crying slowly stopped. These youngsters had some awesome ideas too. I seriously should have been putting a few on Pinterest. I remember one very bright young lady saying they could have a giant poster board where everyone pasted little mini books on there where you could turn a few pages of each with little stories about what they will remember about her. That was the winner. That was a dope idea.

One student asked why she was leaving them. I let the students know that it is important not to see it as her leaving them, but her taking an opportunity. As hard a decision as it was for her, she had to do what was best for her family. This is when I related a personal situation to help them better understand. I said, "How many of you had Mr. Gung Ho for gym class?" A lot of hands went up and many of them smiled and wanted to tell stories about how funny he was. This was not a shy class - and everyone wanted to talk. I said, "Yeah, he was a very good teacher and a very good friend of mine. I miss him all the time. Was I sad when I heard he was taking a different job? You bet. But I was happy for him. He too took a job nearby his house so that he could be with his family more and not in his car two hours every day. So we should be happy for miss what's-her-name too. What is her name, anyway? Crying lady." I'm just kidding. I knew her name. But honestly I just learned her name that day because she was only with us for one quarter.

Anyway, it's true what I said about Gung Ho, and I didn't know how true until I found myself telling those kids about it. I really do miss him. Sometimes we would both be busy, and it's such a big school that we would only cross paths once in a given week - but that was enough if one of us got off a one-liner and had each other laughing our way all the way down the hall. You need that person at your place of business who shares your sense of humor and keeps you from getting too serious and crabby.

How about you, Seven Readers? Who is your Gung Ho around the office, and what's something funny the two of you crack jokes about?