Friday, October 24, 2008

Situations They Don't Teach You About In Teachers College

I've sat down to do this post a number of times but just can't get the words to come in the manner I want them to. After a great deal of thought I think I have something halfway coherent and thought-out so here goes:

When I started teaching in the North a few years ago now, I knew there would be challenges. Some are easier to deal with than others. At least for me. 24-hour daylight bugging you?? Tinfoil the windows. 24-hour darkness getting to you?? Buy a sunlamp (or borrow your house mate's), take up a hobby, or hey, start a blog. Cold wind cutting through you like a knife?? Dress in layers and suck it up. Rough day in the classroom?? Take some time for reflection, find a healthy way to vent, put the wheels back on and jump right back in.

Two incidents over the past few days have left a pretty big impact on me. I've often been told I wear my heart on my sleeve but in this case, I just can't help it. It's just part of who I am. A couple days ago I sat down on the floor next to a young kid who told me he was deciding whether or not he wanted to hurt himself. This always rings alarm bells. Bluntly put, it's code for "I'm deciding whether or not I should commit suicide." I'm not a trained social worker but I have learned a few things over the years when confronted with issues such as this. I ended up sitting with him for several minutes on the floor outside his class. It was really tough. I remember thinking to myself "I can't leave this kid. I have to keep talking. What the hell do I say?" Here's a kid not much younger than my own nephew and he's all depressed.

After a few minutes I got him around to talking about soccer. He's one of my star players and that helped bring a smile to his face. One thing I've been taught by social workers is to ask the student to make a promise. And that promise is that they won't do anything to hurt themselves. By mentioning they want to hurt themselves, the child is asking for help. Generally though if you ask them to promise not to inflict any harm on them, they will agree under most circumstances. So that is what I did. He made a promise and I let him know I'm always available to talk to. I probably shouldn't comment more on this than I have already but as this story shows, this is not just a Nunavut problem. A call to Mom and the social worker followed. So hopefully, the ball is in motion for some intervention.

The second incident happened the following day. Again, it was outside of my teaching time and outside of my classroom but equally as troubling. A male student was confronting a female student in the hallway and preventing her from going to her class. I see/hear about this stuff more often than you might think - the jealous, controlling boyfriend. Guys like this really are the scum of society. If you think you are so big and tough, why pick on a young girl?? Go beat up Mike Tyson if you think you are trying to impress me. Anyhow, I intervened, was threatened and called a few names. I was told he didn't have to listen to me because, well, I'm not his father. All I remember thinking was "Kid, you have no clue how lucky you are that my stepfather isn't your father right now." Thankfully the confrontation remained verbal. To make a long story short, I called the office and the principal arrived pretty quick to resolve things. In the end Mr. Tough Guy was suspended for his troubles, and hopefully charged as well.

Here's the kicker. The following day the female student comes into my class early, thanks me for getting involved and then, before I can ask her how she is doing, SHE asks ME if I'M okay! Wow, I thought, what a totally selfless question! I was quite touched to say the least. I'm sure there will still be fall-out from this over the next little while so I won't say too much more. I think this was the first case of threatening behaviour toward a female student I've seen in my career. I REALLY REALLY hope it's the last.

And so I did what I could, or at least tried to do the best that I was able in both situations. This is not intended as a dig at any one individual, group or government bureaucracy but I just find at times that supports in these types of situations are sadly lacking. It's well past time someone holding the levers of power put some serious thought into these issues.

For the sake of our kids.

And to end on a brighter note, I received any email a couple days ago that Sport North Territorial Assistance Program has approved funding to cover 90% of my soccer team's travel costs to Baffin Regionals next month.



Rob, Tina and the boys said...

What a sweet thing for that girl to do. You're a good guy Darcy.

Matt, Kara and Hunter said...

While working at the college I saw a lot of violence towards women. Their common-law/husband/boyfriend many times was scared of her getting an education in fear that she would leave them. I saw some horrible things that I don't know if I will ever be able to forget. There was so little support for them and there is only so much you can do.

Anonymous said...

Your acts of kindness will one day be rewarded. Be patient, be strong. Paul

Deborah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You did your best in both situations. First of all, you were there for them, moreover out of your teaching time. And you gave them the best support at this time, by talking, being there to listen whenever he will need to and by giving him the responsability of not hurting himself for the first case and defending and securing the second one.
Whatever which could happen after this week, just keep in mind that you did your best.