New Student, New Mom

October 20, 2009 at 3:24 pm 2 comments

About a week ago, I got an email in my inbox alerting me to the fact that I was going to have a new student in oine of my 10th grade classes. “Tara,” I learned, didn’t attend 9th grade. She hasn’t been in school since 8th grade, and we had no academic information about her.

My private reaction was less than enthusiastic. She’d make my third new student in a week. The first was a drop-out whose parents re-enrolled him. (He still hasn’t shown up.) The second was a transfer from out of state with dismal grades, and he didn’t exactly come in ready to impress. And now I had a girl who hadn’t been in school for a year, who was a total academic unknown. I figured she had probably been home-schooled, and wondered what that would mean for her – some around here are extraordinarily conservative and sheltered, while others are very nonconformist and progressive.

Tara walked in to class the next day flanked by two of my sweetest, funniest guys – really good kids, if not the best students in the world. It was clear they’d taken her under their wings, and I was relieved. Not only did that bode well for her, but it indicated to me that she probably had a decent attitude. These boys wouldn’t have taken to her if she didn’t. She was petite, with reddish hair and the general uniform of the adolescent Emo-Punk Lite – hoodie with a dark all-over print, screenprinted t-shirt, jeans, colorful sneakers. I greeted her, she introduced herself to me with a slight lisp and a smile, and I got her situated for her first day of class. (One of the boys tells her that I’m the nicest teacher in the school. I hope I don’t blush.) I’d guess that Tara’s on the younger end of my students – probably fifteen.

At the end of class she came up to me to clarify something, and I asked where she’s from (not acknowledging that I know she wasn’t in school before). She told me that she’s from Washington, and that she had been living with her mom, but her mom decided that she “couldn’t handle her” anymore. Not, I’m afraid, an uncommon story. So Tara’s mom sent her and the baby here, to live with Tara’s dad.

The word baby highlighted itself in the speech bubble over her head.

As she continued on about her living situation, I realized that for the first time, I had a mommy in one of my classes. I asked her about the baby, and learned that he’d been born six weeks early and was now two months old – meaning that she should have just given birth the week before, had things progressed to term. Looking at her again, I realized that she was carrying baby weight around her waist.

No wonder she wasn’t in school last year, or at least for the second semester. Here, and many other places, there are schools that help kids out when they get into that sort of situation. Maybe where she was, there was no such option. Maybe she just took the opportunity to drop out and try to reconcile this new development in her life…

Today, all of Tara’s demographic information had been put into the system, so I was able to get a tiny bit more information from her. She’s not fifteen; she’s seventeen – almost eighteen. I don’t know how she ended up not being school between eighth grade and eighteen, but a picture paints itself. A struggling student – and for all her very good intentions, she has been struggling – can’t pass, so she drops out and… what? Works at McDonalds? Finds a boyfriend, at any rate, or someone who will get her into trouble and then drop out of her life.

I’ve never taught a mom before. She looks like a child, acts like a child. And yet she’s lived through this mystery, is living a life so radically different than the other children around her…

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Entry filed under: STUDENTS, TALES FROM SCHOOL.

Last Dance at Homecoming Multitasking Much?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stixen  |  October 21, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    but teaching her like all the other kids will help restore some normalcy to what’s left of her childhood.

    Reply
  • 2. Mrs. Bees  |  October 21, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    How else would I teach her? Every kid has his or her own special set of circumstances. I’ll differentiate for Tara the same as I will for all the rest of my students… it’s just an odd sensation. One of the milestones of teaching, I think – encountering teen pregnancy.

    Reply

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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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