(Editor’s note: The following, like all of my accounts as a substitute teacher, is best qualified as creative non-fiction. Though the account is true, the site, school, grade, or subject may have been modified. More importantly, the names of the students have all been changed.)
I was standing outside, leaning against the open door made of metal and painted a rusty-red.
One by one, they walked in.
Each with a world ahead of them.
Turner: Yo Mr. Flores!!!
Hand in a fist headed for my face, in very slow motion.
Me: (FIST BUMP) Yo Turner. Are you going to be good today?
T: (A smile with curly blonde hair) What do you mean?
The day before he asked to go to the bathroom, then disappeared for 30 minutes. I had security looking for him.
Me: (LOL) Yeah. nice. You know they put people in jail for less.
T: (suddenly serious) They do?
Me: No. I just like to see you with fear in your eyes. Look no trouble and I promise I’ll let you be the “teacher’s pet”.
Me: Yeah, freakboy, get inside.
Turner passes me by and I can hear him and his favorite friend greet each other. Suddenly,
Turner: YO MR. F? CAN ME AND …
T and Friend: Ahhhhh!
…and then I saw her.
She was maybe a sophomore or younger. She had dyed her hair a dirty platinum. Her eyes were red and it was clear she was struggling.
Me: (I smiled at her) Hi, hold on a minute. ( I whispered to her).
She stopped and looked up at me.
She had freckles and blue eyes full of tears.
(It’s times like this I have to remember I’m a teacher, not a father.)
Me: (I nodded) Can you talk?
She tried and it ended in more tears.
Me: Okay. It’s going to be okay. You are safe here. You understand? You are safe.
Me: Ok, how bout you sit right there on the bench in the garden and take a breather? I’ll be right back.
I promise, I’ll be right back.
She nodded and started walking.
Now, I’ve been formally trained how to help students that are experiencing crisis, even those with severe trauma. It’s rare though that you have to use every bit of learning and talent for one person.
Eventually, we sent her home.
Turns out there wasn’t any particular ‘thing’ that’d happened.
The poor thing was unhappy…and tired.