When I asked my students to free-write about what they were thankful earlier this week, I noticed that many of them mentioned that they were “thankful for living another day.” Although oftentimes people say this as an expression, I know that many of my students mean this literally.
One of my students just lost her cousin, a member of MS-13 who had stepped into the wrong turf. Another student missed a week of school because some masked students jumped him–and broke his jaw in the process–as he was going home after school. One of my Hispanic students was called “amigo” by a group of black students and punched in the face because he wouldn’t give up his cell phone (he came to my classroom crying in shock). I still remember the conversation I had with one of my students during my first week when he asked me, “Mr. K, have you ever been bussed [shot] at before? Because I have.”
The lives of many of students are filled with danger; sometimes, unfortunately, the danger comes to school.
Yet, despite the incidents I have witnessed or heard about, I have never felt endangered. In fact, what I, as my teacher persona, am most thankful about this Thanksgiving is that I do feel safe at my school.
I see few fights in the hallway. Generally, the misbehavior that occurs is isolated to a small group of students. I see Officers G and N patrolling the hallway at all times. I see pranks, I see loud and unruly behavior, but I rarely see violence. Every afternoon, I see the DC police squad cars lined up neatly just off campus, with confident looking officers standing with spread legs and hands on their hips. I see the bustle that comes with my school being on a busy well-lit thoroughfare of DC. I see facts online that indicate that my neighborhood is crime-ridden, but don’t see the evidence in real life to support those facts. In other words, compared to some other schools in the district, my school is a pacifist’s paradise.
So let me think about those other schools for a minute. I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about the following things:
- a serious food and projectile fight breaking out in the cafeteria (as my roommate had to).
- the hallways will become a narrow battleground, a stage upon which in-school gang wars occur (as the half-dozen TFA colleagues at this school had to).
- my livelihood will be at risk everytime I step outside due to a lack of a police presence.
I’ve never had to think about the importance of physical safety before. But now I am thankful that I do feel safe and sound almost all the time.
In other news, students are now beginning to reach out to me by phone and text message. I posted my contact info in my classroom in October and told them that they could call me 24/7 (bad idea?). Here are a few of text message exchanges that I am thankful for due to their hilarity:
TR: Did we have hw?-* luv me in slow motion*
Me: No HW today. Who is this?
TR: Hanny addy smith
Me: I don’t recognize the name. Let’s be serious.
TR: Sike nah! dis TR.
Me: I see. Have a good weekend. Read something for a good hour at some point!
TR: Aight Happy thanksgivn !
Whenever I interact with my students outside of the classroom, I am always urging them to read. Here’s my Thanksgiving advice to EA:
EA: Happy thanksgiving! >MR>
Me: Thank you E! Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Be safe, give thanks and READ something exciting!
EA: Okie dokie
In line with this trend of 21st-century technology use, every Monday, my students agonize openly about how they can’t find me on Facebook. They mention that they’ve found too many people with my last name and “what does your profile photo look like?” I simply wish them luck in their continued hunt for Mr. K’s Facebook profile.