A Little Boy’s Too-Big Confession

Amon is always difficult.

When I first took over this class, the substitute had warned me:

“Amon is a dangerous SNAKE!”

I was shocked and dismayed to hear a teacher talk about her students that way. I was naïve enough, then, to reject the notion that any 10-year-old can act like a dangerous snake.

Boy With Snake On Head

If You Also Cannot Tell Boy From Snake, Boy Is One On Bottom

Amon IS always difficult–no snake–but today, something is really, really off. He has never been as out-of-control before. He actually squares off against me, planting his pint-sized body in front of me and raising his tiny fists.
(This same boy had punched my Assistant, Rose, quite hard in her arm a week earlier. The Office’s response? Nothing. Whatsoever. Remember, this is the District with a mandatory three-day suspension when a student issues a threat–but acts go unpunished.)

This time, I do convince Amon to make the wise choice of not throwing a punch MY way:

“Take a minute to think about it, Amon. Calm down, and think really hard, because there is no way I’m going to let a 10-year old kid punch me and get away with it. And I won’t be worrying about school rules, or my job, or anything else.”

(You’d best believe I’m brave and bold when facing down an opponent 1/4 my size and weight!)

Little Angry Hispanic-Perhaps-Latino Boy

WAY Too Impressive Here. Imagine Him Through the Wrong End of Binoculars, and You’ll Have the Proportions Right.

After a moment of think time, two skinny matchstick arms are lowered. After which, I call this miniscule boy outside our classroom door for a private conference.

“Amon—what’s going on today? Is something wrong?”

To my shock, this very macho gang member begins to cry. And cry, and cry, and cry, and then cry some more.

I let my assistant know what’s going on, and give her some assignments for the class while I wait to hear what Amon’s problem is. (This is difficult, because I must still monitor the class behavior through the open door, and this is one very active and trouble-prone Special Ed class.)

Amon is finally able to begin speaking:

“I think I did something wrong. Really wrong.”

I learn what happened, between choking sobs:

The day before, Amon was visiting his 8-year-old female cousin. The two children had been left together unsupervised the entire day. (No surprise, that.) During the afternoon, Amon had tried forcing his cousin into sex with him: Pulled off her pants, lay on top of her, and attempted penetration.

Boy and Girl Naked Dolls

A Mere Child, Merely Copying What He Has Been Shown

Tears and snot are running down his face this entire time while I pass tissues. I am pulling every hormone-choking trick of my own not to sob along with him.
Amon is feeling scared and ashamed. He always presents a tough guy front, but Amon knows that his actions went too far this time. He feels a healthy familial affection for his cousin, and is frightened and confused by what happened.
“Amon–Would you like to talk to someone about this? The school psychologist?” I ask, hardly daring to hope he’ll agree.

“Yes.” he answers almost immediately. This is one worried and guilty little boy.

I write up the gist of what Amon told me and give this to The Office. I fill out paperwork to inform Social Services of this reported sexual incident.
Have you already guessed that Amon is one of the three boys who have been continually humping the classroom furniture?

Perhaps someone from The Office should have intervened earlier.

Head In Sand

In Sand, or Up Somewhere Else?

From then on, Amon’s family–mother and aunts–was forced by social services to supervise its children all the time they were together–a rare time I saw Social Services do some good, and immediately. (His mother was furious at me.) Amon’s behavior improved slightly at school–either as a result of the talks with the psychologist, or as a result of the increased parental supervision.
I am wondering what movies Amon’s parents watched while he was around. I’m betting they weren’t all Disney flicks.

You SHOULD censor everything your children watch and read. Censorship is GOOD for children.

You are not denying them freedom they should have. You are GIVING them freedom:

A chance to thrive with age-appropriate behaviors, a healthy respect for adults, and a lack of unnecessary fear.

Why on earth do you parents think it’s okay to watch the evening news with your single-digit-aged children?

All they grow up with are disasters happening on every front. There was a good reason Mr. Rogers advised against allowing young children to watch the evening news during the Persian Gulf (Kuwait Invasion) War.

Why on earth do you parents think it’s okay for children under the age of 10 to watch “The Simpsons”?
Younger kids have no idea that Bart’s disrespect for everyone is supposed to be unrealistic.
They know it’s supposed to be funny, and they know he gets away with it.
What is THAT teaching them before they hit the classroom?

Our own little sons loved the Calvin and Hobbes comics.
Similar to Bart, Calvin is highly scornful of the adult world.
I love those comics, and I loved that my children loved them.
However, when I found my little five- and six-year-old boys imitating Calvin’s manner with the two of us, I accidentally “lost” all of their Calvin books until they were older. Oops. Gosh, boys, Mommy is SO sorry!

Don’t get me started on computer games and the internet.

You parents have a responsibility to control everything that goes into your children.
Children are little sponges.
And part of everything that goes into them STICKS.
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Confession: No Longer Good For the Soul?
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Permission to Pee, Sir !

I have to urinate.

We are supposed to use the bathroom at 10:00 AM recess, and at 12:00 lunch. Unfortunately, even after post-childbirth surgery, I occasionally need to use the bathroom at other times, likely triggered by my Behcet’s disease, likely triggered by teaching in that environment).

The approved procedure for peeing outside of recommended times, as it was explained to me in my training, is to open the connecting door to the next classroom and ask the teacher there to take official responsibility for monitoring your class while you are away.

We have no connecting door. The Office has stuck me and my thirteen Special Education students in a large storage closet instead of a classroom.

However, even better than a teacher in the next room, I have an almost full-time assistant. My assistant is well-experienced and highly respected by me and by the administration—this is her sixth year helping such students. I ask Rose to watch the class while I run to the restroom.

I race down the outside corridor on my urgent mission. Before I reach my goal, the Assistant Principal appears from around a corner. She positively pounces:

“WHAT are you doing out of your classroom?!”.
“I have to use the bathroom.”

(child of abuse, here, being faced by a screamer).

“WHO’S watching your students ?!” she blares.
R-R-Rose,” I nervously stutter.

Her eyebrows can’t possibly go any higher.

“What were you THINKING!?
Only a certified teacher can watch your students!”

Then, she glares at me and spits out:

“Go back to your classroom IMMEDIATELY!”
“But…but…I really have to use the bathroom,” I manage to speak up.

Woman Holding In Pee

Like She Couldn’t TELL

Only then does she very begrudgingly allow me to pee, after sternly warning me that I must do it fast and hurry back.
Is THIS what my teaching year is to be like?

Is THIS how The Administration will treat me?

Is this how The District treats all its teachers?

It is very sad to me, on a personal level, looking back at this now:

That the woman who was once a confident white-collar professional, running projects, and meetings with Senior V.P.s, designing systems, travelling all over, managing people (only adequately, that last)–

Immediately reverted to the whipped, beaten, cowed puppy she was each time she was put into a new situation and faced with bullying. My abusive marriage negated any gains I’d made after my abusive childhood–with my Aspie social skills always willing to pitch in and hogtie a hand.
And this reaction is still my first instinct today. That is both sad, and infuriating. Makes me want to go out a kick a cat.



(THIS is why my friend Joey says I’m Satan. I was tempted–really and truly tempted–to leave the post like that, and hit Update, just to see what happened.)

I am KIDDING, y’all!
I would only give a kitty One Hard Look–really.

Dratted faustian felines and their sly little furry-footed ways…

Devious Cat No New Kitten

‘Nuff Said.

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Rey Is Once Again Trying to Cut His–

Rey is once again trying to cut his penis.

Rey, 11 years old, is a sweet, highly intelligent young boy with an extreme lack of self-control. He is in constant motion. He is a danger to himself and others.

He has inadvertently sent students and teachers tumbling down the stairs, knocked children over when swinging his backpack wildly about, and begun to tip himself over a second-story balcony railing while trying to look at the garden below. (I caught his ankle just as he toppled.)

When Rey is given a pencil, he chews on it and pokes himself with it on different places on his body until he punctures his skin. When given crayons, he chews off the paper and then eats the crayon itself. When given paints, he paints every object within reach—he helps out the brush by using his fingers and hands as well.


His Actual Desk

When given scissors…well, Rey can’t be given scissors, EVER, because he pokes himself with the points, including on his eyelids. He cuts his clothing and sometimes the skin underneath, including his genitals. (Somehow, he keeps managing to find scissors and smuggling them into class.)
When seated at his desk, Rey flings his arms and legs outward and scoots the desk noisily all about the room, several feet at a time. This has made it impossible for him to have a partner at the two-person desk. If Rey scoots too close to another student’s desk, he reaches into their belongings and treats them as destructively as his own.

I spend a great deal of the day moving Rey away from others. The isolation and difference from other students depresses him.

Despite Rey’s challenging behaviors, his intelligence shines forth. He is sometimes able to concentrate for fairly extended periods when working alone—particularly in testing conditions of total silence.

Rey’s work on the annual writing assessment merits a grade of B. This is especially impressive because the assessment isn’t even normally administered to English learners. (I had decided to give it to Rey because I had suspected that he would excel.)

Obviously, this poor kid’s impulsivity loses him friends and gets him into difficulties outside of the classroom. Rey recently spent some time in police boot camp after he decided it would be fun to throw large cement chunks at passing car windshields.

Rey has frequently expressed self-loathing when his behaviors get out of hand. He is a highly intelligent, sensitive and often considerate boy in a great deal of difficulty.

Let’s look to Rey’s family for help, shall we?

Rey’s father tells him he is ugly and dumb. Rey is handsome, but has a skin condition that causes a mottled complexion.

Let’s look to medical professionals, shall we?

Doctors have recommended medication for Rey’s obvious ADHD symptoms. Good for them! But his loving, compassionate father refuses.

What does the school system do for a boy like Rey?

Well, other than putting him a Special Ed classroom and leaving him to his own devices, absolutely nothing.


Despite our sympathy for Rey, let’s look around him for a moment:

Why are the other children in my class subjected to Rey’s presence?

Why is no one concerned with their learning or safety?

We all know how little learning would occur for each of us if we were in a room with Rey all day.

We all know how uncomfortable we adults would feel with Rey near us.

How would you like your child to be seated next to him?

At the time I left teaching, years ago, there were plans to eliminate Special Ed classrooms and place all special-needs children into regular classrooms.

I believe that, just as a court can order administration of insulin for a diabetic child, in such obvious cases of extreme ADHD that a child is a danger to itself and others, the poor kid should be rescued from abusive, neglectful parents and have court-mandated medication–and until that is done, the child should NOT be accepted into government-funded school facilities. When I am made King of the World (I have gender-neutralized the noun “king”, since it is perceived to be more powerful than “queen”), this shall be one of my many edicts.
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My First Parent: Special Ed-Conomics

I am very nervous. I am about to meet my very first parent of one of my special ed students.

I have worked almost 8 hours preparing for my first “IEP” conference—a time when the teacher assesses and reports on the Special Education child’s progress toward the goals which were set months earlier. The conference takes place with the principal, assistant principal, psychologist, nurse, teacher, and parent.

I carefully and slowly explain each point to the mom, waiting while my words are translated into Spanish. She remains silent during the entire report, even when asked for input. When I finish, I ask her again, “Do you have any questions for us at all?”

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, she does:

“Can I get extra money from the state because I have another one of my children in Special Ed?”

That’s all she wants to know. Not “How can I help my daughter?”, or “Isn’t there more YOU could do to help my daughter?”

I learn that this mom has eight older children, all of whom were labeled Special Ed and all of whom are serving time in prison. (No—I am not making this up.) I also learn that, yes indeed, when a parent is on welfare, the state gives extra money for each child labeled “Special Ed”.

I don’t want to think what I’m thinking. But I bet you are thinking it too.

Special Ed Versus Regular Ed Spending Pie Chart

How Many Kids FIT On That Special Bus?

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The Mean Teacher. How Mean? Really Mean.

“I am VERY scared…”
We move to New York when I am five.

It is the middle of May, and the kindergarten year is almost over. I am very sad that I won’t end the school year in Chicago.

My kindergarten classroom there had a miracle happening in it: In the back of the room, inside an aquarium, a tadpole was growing legs and arms! The teacher said it was going to be a frog soon, and its tail would fall off.


Half Tadpole Half Frog

Now I Won’t Ever Get To See It.

On my first day in New York, my mommy takes me to the door of the kindergarten classroom and pushes me through it. I don’t know what to do.

Someone tells me to sit down at a very long table where other children are sitting. Paper is being passed out. The children have already been told to do something with the paper.

Kindergarten Boys Writing At Table With Crayons

See? They’re Already Getting to Work.

They all start to write on it, and I don’t know what to do.

Scared Little Girl

I Am VERY Scared I Will Get In Trouble For Not Doing What I’m Supposed To Do

I look around me and try to do what the other children are doing. Then, I hear the rest of what the teacher says to do, and I feel better.

After the teacher takes our papers, she looks at them and gets very mad.

“Whose paper is this!? Who did this?!” she yells.

It is my paper.

The teacher takes me outside the door of the classroom. We stand in the open doorway under the big American flag while she yells and yells at me.

Angry Teacher and American Flag

I Look Up At The Flag So That I Don’t Have To Look At Her Face

Scared Frozen Little Girl

I Am 5 Years Old, and I Don’t Know What I Did Wrong

It turns out that THIS is what I did wrong:

The first direction the children were given, the one I didn’t hear, was “Write your name.”  I had copied what another child was doing, and so I had copied another child’s name.

Annadora Perillo was that child’s name. I hadn’t recognized those Italian sounds as a name. Most everyone in our Chicago neighborhood had been Polish.

Happily, Annadora and I Wound Up Becoming Best Friends. Here We Are in 3rd Grade. I Have No Front Teeth, But I Still Have Annadora

Mrs. Armano was that mean teacher’s name.

She used to throw things at us: Pencils, chalk, and once, a big dictionary that she threw at Lloyd Calmenson’s head.

I never thought to tell anyone. Maybe New York teachers were like that.

Two years later, my little sister had Mrs. Armano’s daughter Mrs. King for HER kindergarten teacher.

Angry Big Head Young Woman

Look Familiar?

The daughter threw things at the children just like her mother had. But my sister was smarter than I had been. (Those of you who read my post The Best Toy Ever, Troll-La-La-La-La may notice a pattern here. Grrr.)

My sister told my parents about Mrs. King, and the other kids told their parents, and Mrs. King got fired.

Satisfied Young School Children

I Feel Good About That.



When I was a teacher, I told my students’ parents that they could enter our classroom at any time, as long as they did so quietly, stood or sat silently at the back, and held their questions until I, not they, felt I had time to meet with them. In public schools, you may learn that you have the RIGHT to enter your child’s classroom to observe, as long as you do not do it overly-frequently or disrupt learning.

When teachers know that a parent may drop into classroom, lunchroom, or playground at any time, children are safer from bullies–adult- or child-sized.

But be prepared: You may discover that your own child is the bully.


Not MY Child

Not MY Child!?

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