Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It Get's Real (Tiring)

This year has gone a whole lot better in general, but in spite of that there are certainly parts of the job that are hard to control and very difficult to improve. One of those things is reducing in the short term the amount of violence we see in the community and trying to get our most at-risk students to have nothing to do with it. It's also difficult to keep our students who have nothing to do with the major problems outside of the school away from those problems. It should be noted that the vast majority of our students have nothing to do with the violence that happens in their community. They cannot be blamed for the poverty they experience or the difficult tests they are put through on a sometimes daily basis. That said, it's part of our job to make sure they stay safe under our watch and give them a place where they trust adults and have social norms, rather than social uncertainties.

This past Friday we had the first major confrontation of the year right outside of the school. A former student of ours came by the school, as many tend to do, and some unruly gentlemen (three of our current students included) came to find him. This group of gentlemen confronted our former student and one pulled out a knife. Our former student then ran into the bodega on the corner, grabbed the butcher's knife from behind the deli counter and came out swinging.

This was fairly disconcerting for the rest of the people on the block, to say the least, many of whom were our students and staff. One of our teachers took it upon himself to dive into action and grab the former student with the butcher's knife, dragging him away from the scene and trying to diffuse the problem. Members of our justice team didn't seem too be far behind. The former student was dragged into the building and into the main office as I was coming down the stairs past the front door.

As I walked past the front door the principal gave the direct order, "(Nick James), we need a bullhorn!" I ran into the office and grabbed one and then headed out the door to help clear the block. The police were arriving and one of our Justice Team members was reaming out the teacher who stepped in, telling him how dumb the move it. I joined the administrators in clearing people out of the area, wondering what the hell was going on, but knowing full and well that the need to clear the block off quickly happened numerous times last spring and that there was probably some reason it needed to be done at that moment.

Our former student wasn't hurt badly, but he looked like he'd been hit over the head with something and a few drops of someone's blood had to be cleaned off the office floor. Our current students who were involved in the incident had disappeared by this time. The police officer who arrives at our school whenever there is an issue like this said that had he been there when the student was swinging away that our former student may have been downed by his sidearm. Apparently this student and this police officer have had numerous run-ins before, but the comment from the police officer was somewhat unsettling.

By the end of last year I was reacting pretty similarly to stuff like this- some kind of numbness followed by a tired feeling that I seem to get whenever major disturbances happen. The feeling happened more toward the end of the year. Perhaps it's a kind of momentary resignation to the idea that regardless of how hard I try as an individual this sort of things still happens. Luckily no one was gravely injured. Unfortunately some of our current students were involved. On the bright side, we were six weeks in without a major incident when this happened.

Today's Wine: Lemon-Lime Powerade. This Saturday I'm running the Urbanathlon in Chicago with my three brothers, dad, an uncle, and a cousin. Because of this I'm not drinking any alcohol this week in hopes that my body will be better prepared for the race. My dad gave my brothers and me the charge of beating my cousin and uncle and I don't want to let the old man down.

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