I never received math books, the whole year I was at Henry. We did all our math on slates with chalk, just like if we were a one-room school house on the prairie.
Students would go missing from my room a day here and there, and when they came back, the reason was that they didn't have any clean clothes and spent the day at the laundromat with their mom or grandmother or older sibling doing the laundry.
A few of my children were deeply troubled kids. I know their real names and I can track them through Missouri's court system. Jeremy's been in and out of jail several times, starting in his teen years. So have Derek and Trevaris.
One of Jody's kids died in a car wreck. Her mother and various adults had stuffed 21 people into a minivan and driven it down I-70, where it overturned, killing most of the children on board.
Leon was never found.
The woman who ran the Title One classroom had something against me I never quite placed my finger on. My children, along with all the children in the school, qualified for Title One Services. They got all their services in one week in May. She showed up at my door and shooed me away. I spent the week in teacher's lounge, in limbo, while she showed cartoons to my class. No one thought this was strange or inappropriate. Welcome to Henry.
None of the students, save two, who started with me in October ended with me. One of them was Regina. She, Jalisa, Jazmin, Jasmine, and Trinity were my girl scout troop that year, and became the group that I felt I had the most positive impact upon. I took them to Camp Tuckaho in April for a daycamp experience. We had a spectacular time. Ice cream on the way home and the whole bit. I still have the patch but I haven't put it on my girl scout sweatshirt yet.
Jalisa's mother couldn't read.
Tiarra's mom had doctored her birth certificate to get her into school earlier (she needed daycare). Tiarra started first grade at age 4 1/2. The amount of paperwork I had to fill out to get her to repeat first grade was as insurmountable as everything else.
A kindergarten teacher was accused of witchcraft by a group of parents. She arranged her children in groups according to astrological sign. She often threatened children with mysterious bad things that would come their way. So strange to be in a school in the modern day where this happened.
Mrs. Vernon, the rough 5th grade teacher who never answered my questions about the union, got attacked by a grandmother in the office. I was never attacked by a parent but was made to feel uncomfortable by several. My room sat at the end of a narrow hallway and had the one exit. I started having parent conferences in the hall with me on the outside.
I got kinda paranoid.
Lice went around the school--but really only three families, the white families, caught it. One family, with a first grader named Brandi down in Jody's class, had it constantly. Brandi scratched so much her skin broke on her scalp and she developed impetigo, which led to blood poisoning, which led to one of her kidneys shutting down. The social worker did her best but it just could never have been enough.
In May I got a new student whose mother was from Laos, very young, and whose father was white, very middle aged. His name was Gus and he held his own. Every teacher I stood outside on the playground with for recess duty would look at him and say, almost this direct quote: "Asian kids are so cute but the boys grow up to be so ugly." This baffled me in ways I still, to this day, cannot express fluently.
I won't repeat the things our school nurse said about children because they aren't just unfit for print, but they would make you go blind reading them.
Gallows humor set in around Thanksgiving and didn't let up until the last day, the very last day of school. The very last moments. And then I was free.