Wednesday, September 29, 2004

butter beans

It's Wednesday. About halfway through second period, while our principal was being interviewed on the in-school televsion channel, the fire alarm went off. The evacuation was orderly, so that was good. The kids were made to cross St Claude (I imagined what drivers on St Claude felt when they saw 700 kids in uniforms filling the neutral ground and sidewalks). Four fire engines came and firemen went in with axes and oxygen tanks. Our fire alarm is the kind that only goes off when it smells smoke, so it wasn't a false alarm. However, it looks like someone put a piece of burning paper near the sensor in a bathroom on the third floor just to set off the alarm. Anyway, it was dramatic. Finally, after about half an hour, we were scooted back in. The security guards attempted to bring the kids in through the metal detector but they overwhelmed him and teemed back into school. The ones who didn't escape, that is. Then we started having fights in the halls. The sirens outside arrived and four policemen came in and ran past my room to the side hall where a kid and a security guard were figthting. Fights broke out all over the school. The air, I'm sure you can imagine, was on fire. As it were. I managed to herd my students into my class and I locked the door and we sat in a small circle and talked about it, then we wrote. We kept hearing screaming among people running down the halls but we kept on writing. I read what I wrote, in which I told them I wanted more for them than this. I told them I think they're afraid. One girl said naw, but she was, and everyone knew it. I told them they were being robbed of their right to an education. They told me this is only the beginning. They told me that last year this went on all the time. They told me that last year in one day there were three fire alarms. Some of the fires are real.
When I was leaving at 3:45 another fight had begun. Kids in riot mode hanging around outside pushed the door open, knocked the metal detector over, overwhelmed the security guards, and bullied their way into the hall outside the cafeteria. A fellow teacher with her arm on the shoulder of her little girl was leaving the same time as I. The way they walked slowly and looked at the mob ... there was something poignant about it.
HOWEVER, in second period there was this precious moment: a girl said that right before she left for school this morning her momma asked her what she wanted for supper tonight. My girl said she wanted butter beans and her momma said okay. What a damned good reason to want to go home. I told her that and she agreed.

Disposed of: a big zucchini

Melanie Anne Plesh

1 Comments:

Blogger leslieg said...

This gave me goosebumps.

5:02 PM  

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