I remember the first Kylie I ever taught. I hadn't been teaching high school very long, and it was trial by fire. Typically the newest teachers get the toughest kids. I guess they figure if you've been there a while you've earned the right to teach students above the criminal level. (It was sort of a rough school.) And they must also figure that if you get the tough-as-nails kids and you stick around after the first year or two, you just might make it to achieve tenure and maybe even retire someday.
If there is a positive side to teaching the lowest (and worst behaved) students, it's that as the year rolls along, those are typically the ones who drop out. They get bored, frustrated, disillusioned, embarrassed, arrested, or any number of other things, and they disappear from your classes in droves. When I say "positive side," by no means do I mean to trivialize the social issue of dropping out, nor do I mean I was glad to see any particular students go away. (But you have to know I was.) I just mean that in that setting, with those difficult students, it was much easier to manage a class (and sometimes actually teach) if the number was smaller. Those were energy-sucking kids, and I could fill up a number of blog entries with stories just from them. Some make me want to weep with sadness; others make me want to weep with joy. (I'll try to remember to tell you about the student who volunteered to answer a question when I was being observed one day. Remind me if I forget.)
On the day that sparked this particular memory, we had just returned from lunch. The way our schedule worked, we had a 4th period class that had lunch and a study hall period attached to it. On our hall, we had class, then lunch, then the study hall. Perfect arrangement. It was late in the school year, and my 4th period class had dwindled to about 8 students. (There were probably more than that on roll, but unless their probation officers were checking on them, attendance was sporadic at best.) I felt confident enough leaving them alone long enough to go down the hall to the restroom and brush my teeth after lunch. (Because goodness knows the 20 minutes we had for our lunch break wasn't enough to eat AND do everything else.)
I seem to remember there were 8 students present in study hall on this particular day. I got my toothbrush and started out the door. Then I turned to the meanest girl in that class, a girl named Kylie, and I said to her, "You're in charge." I had used the bathroom and was in the process of brushing my teeth when there was furious banging on the door of the restroom in our faculty workroom. It was a student (or two) from my 4th period class, yelling, "There's a fight in your room!"
Apparently Kylie had taken me at my word about being in charge, and she was in the process of beating the tar out of another girl. The assistant principal got to my room before I did, and I just knew my career as a teacher was over. One of the biggest no-nos in education is leaving a classroom unattended, even if there are only 8 of them and you've left Kylie in charge. He was very forgiving and understanding, though, and it almost made me like him.
The combatants had knocked every single thing off my desk in the melee. I had this
precious little pen and pencil holder that spelled out "H-E-L-L-O,"
with each letter a separate compartment. By the time I got to my room,
it said "Hell." I left it there for the rest of the year because I
thought it was appropriate.
She was the first girl named Kylie I ever taught. And every time I get a new one (because there are only a jillion in the world now, with half a jillion different ways to spell it), I always remember her. And I shudder just a little bit.