Her name was Kia. It actually took me a few days to remember that, though I have never forgotten her face. What made me remember her name? I recalled that at the time I taught her, I had associated her name with a fledgling car company. Then I remembered. I was a first year teacher. She was in my difficult sophomore class. They began testing me the second day. I was trying get a student who had just been enrolled in the class set with books and a syllabus, and I had this crazy idea that the class should be working quietly while I did this. They had another idea. I remember becoming so frustrated at one point that I told the class that it should be so quiet that I could hear a pin drop. Of course, I’m from the South, so pen/pin sound the same to us. They all dropped their pens. I remember the dread I felt at that moment. They were going to be difficult. And they sure were.
I had 33 students in that class. I had to put my large desks in tables because they wouldn’t fit otherwise. I was never given enough desks for all the students in that class. The class tested me at every turn. We were all confined together for 90 minutes every day due to the asinine 4X4 block schedule our school had adopted. No one will ever be able to convince me that a 4X4 block is a good idea. Oh sure, I had four classes each day. I also had each of them for 90 minutes.
I can’t remember anymore why I had asked Kia to go to the office. I remember very clearly that she was digging in her heels and wouldn’t leave. It was becoming a power struggle. I finally picked up her backpack, preparing to escort her myself when she snapped. She threatened me. To be honest, I can’t even remember what she threatened to do. I turned on my heel and went straight to the principal. That’s when I melted into a puddle of tears. A student had threatened to actually, physically hurt me.
I might be able to consider myself lucky compared to other teachers — I have only been threatened once. Once was enough. Kia was suspended for five days. Then she was returned to my classroom without incident. The principal visited my class a couple of times after that just to make sure all was well. I did not go home the day of the incident, even though my principal offered. To me, that would be like letting the kids know Kia won. I knew for sure the kids would talk about it. I knew it would be all over the school.
Kia was strange for the rest of the year. One would think she would give me dirty looks whenever she saw me, but it was quite the opposite. She would smile and say hello. As if nothing had happened. I still scratch my head over it.
Watching Freedom Writers put me in mind of this experience and several others I had, both as a student and as a teacher. When I reflect on this experience after nearly 10 years have passed, I don’t feel angry. I can’t even remember the details. Funny, isn’t it? One would expect never to forget something like that. And I had trouble even remembering her name.