HA! If I thought the kids were sick last week I had no clue what this week would hold. At one point this week we had 9 teachers and 137 students out sick. That is more than a quarter of the school. Plenty of kids and teachers, including myself, are still trudging through the day with the respiratory crud. While we have had a few swine flu cases our big issue right now is this horrible cold that takes weeks to go away. I have had the cold for three weeks now and it is just hanging on and makes me sound like a frog and blow colorful snot now and then the day. I am not running a fever or throwing up so there is really no good excuse for me to stay home. As a district we are a bit short on subs right now...go figure.
So classes are small and the kids who are there, and many teachers are feeling sluggish. With that many kids gone it is hard to know why a student is absent. Does he have a cold, the flu, is skipping school, or the worst ...has been removed by DHS. It's been a rough two weeks on the DHS front with 7 of our students being removed or re-placed. One of my favorite 8th graders got pulled over the weekend and sent to live in a new town with no warning. We were not able to say good buy. I'll really miss her. 3 siblings got removed and sent to grandma's last week where they are now doing much better. The boy (the one who calls me Mrs. Boobs) got through my class without incident this week. Another little boy was taken from one foster home and sent to another. We have no clue where. He was only with us for about three weeks. The most painful was two sisters who have been so neglected over the last year and were finally removed this week. The DHS worker said it was the worst removal she has ever witnessed. The most disgusting home, violent response from the adults and the cops had to get deeply involved. I somehow doubt I'll ever see those little girls ever again.
Having students removed is one of the most heart wrenching parts of teaching in low income schools. We spend so much time parenting, caring for the basic needs and social and emotional life of our students that many of us feel a deep loss when our kids are removed. It is especially hard because it is not safe for us to know what happens to our kids or where they are sent. That way if an angry parent comes in we can honestly say we don't know what happened to their kids.
When our students hug you at the end of the day and say I love you and I wish you were my mommy...well it carries a bit more weight.
Teachers, in general, tend to feel isolated. Several co-workers and I have talked and decided we not only feel isolated from society's understanding of the job, but we also often feel isolated from the experience of teachers from other schools. We have noticed that at conferences and even district meetings, we tend to gather with other low income teachers that are sharing our experiences of not just teaching, but the issues that come with low income schools.
I think it would be interesting to arrange a teacher exchange. Low income teachers would spend three days at a higher income school, discovering the issues that come with hovering parents and overachievers and higher income school teachers could see inside the world of the low income school. Perhapses we would feel less isolated after experiencing each others worlds.