If you just started following our journey (or if you are just tuning back in), then you need to know that I teach an alternative class for students whose behavior is so severe that they cannot function in the regular classroom environment. The school’s aim is to target the root of their destructive behavior, eradicate the symptoms, and reestablish habits of discipline, respect, and accountability. Once we see that they have started to implement the changes that we think are necessary for them to succeed, we try to slowly transition them back into the regular classroom.
Of course, the process doesn’t end there. If a student has spent days, weeks, months, or even years developing particular behavior patterns, then more often than not, it will take days, weeks, months, or even years to rewire their thinking. Their issues can be curbed temporarily but not cured indefinitely. That takes time, as well as a lot of mental and emotional determination. When I do transition students back into their classes, it’s always interesting to see how well they readapt into their old environment. And every time I do hear updates on them, I feel like I am standing in the middle of a street staring at markers pointing in all directions. Some good, some bad, some uplifting, some disheartening—I don’t even know how to comprehend it all.
So far this school year, we have had four students transition back into the regular classroom: Khianna, Felicia, Carlos, and Gabriella. Here is the direction that each of them is pointing . . .
Khianna: She was, and has continued to be, our light at the end of the tunnel. All her teachers have given her glowing reports and have had nothing but positive things to say about her attitude and work ethic. She has been one of the rare few that has bought into our system and continued to maintain her focus in the classroom. We couldn’t be more proud of her.
Felicia: While her grades have been excellent, her self-destructive tendencies have flared up again. Our principal received a report from a student that Felicia had been bringing razors to school and was cutting herself in the bathroom. The student brought our principal a picture of what she claimed was Felicia’s thigh. The picture showed where Felicia had supposedly carved another eighth grader’s name into her own thigh with the razor. I will find out more in the coming days, but for her own sanity, I hope that she does not digress too far into her old thought spirals.
Carlos: Carlos has not done anything bad. He also has not done anything particularly good, either. Apparently, he has not done, well, anything. His teachers have told me that he shows up to class emptyhanded: no notebook, no textbook, no paper—not even a pencil. He will listen in class and attempt assignments, but he never finishes them. He simply walks around in state of limbo, his head in the clouds and his attitude nonchalant. It’s very odd, so we will see what becomes of that whole situation.
Gabriella: Gabriella has had perhaps the most intriguing journey of the four so far. Shortly after graduating out of my class, we received reports that she started having seizures. She spent a week in the hospital, where doctors did test after test to try and analyze her condition to determine the cause of the seizures. It was all inconclusive. Since then, she has had several episodes, two of which were so severe that an ambulance had to be called to the school. It’s hard to focus on anything else when you don’t know what is going on with your body, so needless to say, her grades and self-esteem have been suffering badly. All we can do for her is pray that they discover answers sooner rather than later.
Sometimes I’m not sure where to look. When I focus my attention on one arrow, another one points me in a different direction. I don’t always want to venture down their path, but I don’t have that choice. I must follow them. Because whether they seem encouraging or discouraging, hopeful or hopeless—though miles apart and separated by an infinite number of obstacles—they all have a destination.
And it’s my job to see that they find themselves there.