Since the inauguration of The Vulgarian, I seem to have lost the ability to write about kittens and puppies. Everything I read online makes my heart beat faster and I can’t sleep at night. This is all I can say right now.
Since the inauguration of The Vulgarian, I seem to have lost the ability to write about kittens and puppies. Everything I read online makes my heart beat faster and I can’t sleep at night. This is all I can say right now.
When my husband Frank and I first set up house together 26 years ago I knew that we would have greater challenges to face than what to serve for dinner. I grew up in a large family where my mother miraculously prepared a well-balanced dinner for nine people every night. It wasn’t gourmet but it was predictably bland and coordinated with military precision. He came from a small, Italian family with a mother who would drive 25 miles just to get a single ingredient to make a new recipe and a father who had once been a cook in the Navy. His grandfather owned a little deli in Rhode Island, the kind where sausages and cheese hung from the ceiling and kids at school made fun of him because his sandwiches dripped through the foil (but they would eagerly trade him their baloney on white bread for his Italian cold cuts). Frank intuitively knew how to make every meal taste delicious. I had no repertoire and usually burned things. So early in our marriage it was easy to defer to him on all things kitchen related. Except for one sacrosanct family recipe: rice dressing.
My family devoured this special Cajun side dish at every holiday meal growing up, either stuffed inside a turkey or served from an overflowing bowl that my brothers fought over. On our first wedding anniversary my mother gave Frank and me a simple, framed copy of her mother’s recipe, handwritten in Grandmère’s illegible script. “About 1 ½ pounds of ground meat… I cook it for about 1 hour with salt and pepper… add onions, green pepper and celery with red hot sauce… add cooked rice, stir up mixing well…” My grandmother died when I was very young, but I proudly carried on the Cajun tradition. Every holiday, I would cook the rice dressing days in advance so that I could be out of Frank’s way while he roasted the meat to perfection and created a gravy to die for. For years, I had that one dish to remind me that I was still competent at something in the kitchen.
When we first moved in together I tried to cook pasta his way, which of course was the only way. You see, I married a perfectionist. We used to call it spaghetti or macaroni growing up. I didn’t know anything about cuts like ziti or rigatoni. He reminded me that his pasta was far superior to anything I made. And he was right. So I boiled the water and added salt, set the timer and sat down to grade papers. Invariably Frank would go into the kitchen and take over. The few times he didn’t intervene, the pasta would stick together because I’d forgotten to stir it. Or I’d mess up the al dente timing. My husband didn’t finish my sentences; he finished my projects. And not just in the kitchen. At first I really liked it. In fact, all my friends and family really liked it too. But they say that the things that attract you at the beginning of a relationship can sometimes repel you later. That was the case with me. This year I’ve finally come to grips with it.
I learned about Frank’s handiness early on. He’d been a forester in Maine – which of course was a big selling point while we were dating – but we were living in Manhattan at the time, and there weren’t too many trees to identify, or logging roads to manage. He liked to organize and fix things. He was very handy. But a Mr. Fix-It with no garage and no truck has to find an outlet. There was only so much you could do in a 600 square-foot apartment in New York City. Frank started to cook more regularly. He bought a Romertopf clay oven and made delicious Tandoori chicken. We got a pressure cooker that could give us a kid-friendly beef bourgignon in 15 minutes. We got a rice cooker and he started going to all the Asian stores and asking the salesladies for their advice: Jasmine rice from Thailand or short grain Japanese rice grown in California? I developed a gourmet pot belly.
Friends would invite us for dinner and express delight that Frank fixed things that they didn’t even know were broken – stovetop fans, pictures that were hung crookedly, chairs that squeaked. “Can you believe she tries to slice meat with those dull knives?” he would exclaim as we left. He started to travel with a knife sharpener. His skills made me very popular in a new way with my old friends. I basked in his reflected glory.
But then his helpfulness started spilling into my domain. If I started laundry on a Sunday night and stepped away, he would put the clothes in the dryer then take them out and fold them all wrong. Neatly, though. I can’t say I look forward to doing laundry, but there is a certain satisfaction in finishing a job you start. Before I realized what was happening, he took over other chores as well. If I slacked off for a moment, he would be putting a second coat of polish on the shoes that I left out, or re-cleaning a stainless steel pot I’d washed because it wasn’t shiny enough. Who doesn’t like shiny pots? I didn’t complain. But it has made me kind of lazy. “You know that tea kettle you mentioned wanting to buy?” he said. “Well I went out and bought a better one.” He would produce the Number One rated item that Consumer Reports or Cooks Illustrated or America’s Test Kitchen agreed on. Don’t get me wrong – it was a great choice but I was deprived of the shopping experience.
“I wish my husband would do those things,” said my neighbor when I complained.
As the kids got older and I got busy with coaching and after-school projects, Frank started cooking regularly again. There’s nothing better than coming home to a hot meal after a 12-hour day spent almost entirely with teenagers. I was really appreciative that I didn’t have to make any decisions about food.
A few days before Thanksgiving this year, I asked him to pick up a green pepper and some ground beef. I had to work the Wednesday before and he didn’t. “I’m going to start the rice dressing tonight,” I said. He texted a few times from the supermarket. “The recipe calls for a mixture of ground beef and ground pork,” he said. “They have ground pork here already mixed with beef. Should I get some?” “Sure,” I texted back. It was annoying that he had checked Grandmère’s recipe – and knew it better than I did. I’d never followed it exactly, preferring my own version of the family specialty. Also because it called for “gizzards” which I think should be outlawed. “It calls for hot sauce,” he said. “Can I use Sriracha instead of Tabasco?” Noooo! That was just too much a departure from the Cajun roots and respect for my family tradition, as if he’d slapped me in the face.
When he arrived home, I’d cleared the accumulated junk mail off the kitchen counter, washed the special platters and serving utensils so they’d be ready for the next day. I’d made a cake. I’d arranged the flowers, found the right decorations, napkins and silverware. I’d just sat down, put my feet up and was enjoying my first sip of wine, when Frank walked in with bags of groceries. “You look tired,” he said. “Do you want me to start the rice dressing?” What woman wouldn’t want to hear those words?
I considered for a moment. He had established dominance in the kitchen years earlier, he’d already taken away my autonomy in simple household maintenance, he’d usurped my domestic roles of laundry, dry cleaning and shoe repair. I didn’t mind giving up those chores. But my old-fashioned traditional rice dressing recipe? Could I relinquish my last vestige of kitchen competence? My self-esteem?
“That would be wonderful,” I said. All my fight was gone. Deep in my heart I knew that if he said ‘start,’ he would most likely finish it. Because he finishes all my projects. And he does them to perfection. So for the first time 26 years , I allowed myself to relax on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. My husband cooked my grandmother’s rice dressing recipe completely on his own without any pretense of checking with me. And guess what? It was delicious. I sulked a little when he got all the credit, but I had time to read a few chapters of my book and go for a walk in the woods. He’d one-upped me with the only meal I was confident I could make. And I didn’t care any more. In fact it was a relief.
When you are married for so many years, you learn to figure out your boundaries. It’s like doing a little dance forward and backwards without stepping on any toes. I had to step all the way back and relinquish control of my final family recipe to realize that my pride had just gotten in the way. What I learned from rice dressing is to truly appreciate that my husband’s competence has allowed me the freedom to pursue my own dreams.
I didn’t want to go to school this morning, the day after the 2016 Election. I woke up 5:00 am, as usual, and before I’d even finished my first cup of coffee my colleagues were texting and posting on social media. “What will we say to the children?” they asked. I felt sick to my stomach to hear the announcer on NPR say “President-elect Donald Trump.” This is the man who has bullied his way to the top with crass racist, misogynistic, xenophobic rhetoric that I have taught my students to avoid. They recognize him for what he is. They are fearful of deportation and discrimination. Now he has the power to turn his evil words into action. How could I reassure them when I felt so angry myself?
My fellow ESOL teachers had a pow-wow in the office. One had printed out “Know Your Rights” information that we made available last year when the immigration raids started in Prince George’s County. One was going to show an electoral map and explain the process visually. Another was crying openly. We agreed that we’d listen if students wanted to talk and would say that we didn’t have any answers. We knew that there might be some behavioral issues, especially with the newcomers. We would try to reassure them that school was a safe place. I decided to talk about the strength of our democracy, the power of the system of Checks and Balances. But inside I don’t know if it’s true any more. I’m churning and angry and scared. Because I think the American Dream has been crushed overnight.
During the morning announcements, students were more talkative than usual. When the student newscaster said, “Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance,” I heard a chorus of boos. They refused to stand up. I was shocked! That’s what we did during the waning Vietnam War days when I was in high school. “No, Miss! We don’t support Trump!” I’d been teaching them the etiquette of hand-over-heart, silence and showing respect when the Pledge comes on. “He doesn’t respect us!” This is what Trump has engendered. Disrespect for the greatness that our flag represents.
As the day moved on, students wanted to talk openly about it less and less. Many had stayed up all night watching the returns come in. My bleary eyes matched those around me. I felt brain dead. Teachers expressed the numbness they felt when we ran into each other at the copy machine, in the hallways, eating lunch. I was trying not to see this as a repudiation of all that I hold dear: equal rights, human rights, civility. I couldn’t help connecting the text we’re reading in 3rd period, Oedipus Rex, to the elections. But the tragic flaw brought Hillary down, not Trump. “The hero’s downfall is partially his or her own fault, the result of free choice, not of accident or villainy or some overriding, malignant fate. In fact, the tragedy is usually triggered by some error of judgment or some character flaw that contributes to the hero’s lack of perfection… This error of judgment or character flaw is known as hamartia and is usually translated as ‘tragic flaw.’ Often the character’s hamartia involves hubris (which is defined as a sort of arrogant pride or over-confidence).” I think the entire Democratic Party was suffering from hamartia.
By the end of the day, students were trying to joke. “Ms. Sullivan – next year you won’t have a job any more!” That exact thought had crossed my mind long ago, but I dismissed it. The vast majority of my students are from Central America, and some are undoubtedly here without papers. Trump couldn’t possible evict 11 million undocumented immigrants, right? One of the reasons I went in to this profession is to share the joy of teaching immigrants about uniquely American opportunities. Like how in America, you can arrive with little money, no family connections, and get a good education. You can work hard and go to college or graduate and buy a car and a house. My grandfather immigrated from Ireland and worked as a steamfitter in the Boston suburbs. His children went to college and became professors and business people. In America you can avoid gang violence by living in the right neighborhood, and by making good decisions about your leisure time. My father regularly visited the library and won the state Spelling Bee and a trip to Washington, DC. You can imagine how proud his Irish-nanny mother felt to accompany him by train. In America you can be from anywhere in the world and go to any church you want. You can wear a head scarf and go to the mosque if you want. You can hold a rally and speak your mind or refuse to salute the flag if you want. Because that’s your right. “La migra!” they joked in 6th period. You can choose to take advantage of all that is here. Isn’t free choice and opportunity what the American Dream is all about?
But now, with a Trump presidency looming menacingly over us, my students are already limited in their choices because now Trump has unleashed an anti-immigrant, xenophobic plague that is already infecting us with fear. How will they be able to advocate for themselves in the face of bullies? I have to show them how to listen respectfully to others, how to disagree with an idea without demeaning the speaker. I have to teach them about the values that we hold dear as Americans. They fled their countries to hear the lessons that I have not yet taught. I think now, more than ever, my job is one of the most important ones in the country.
What we should say to the children is much better said in this Huff Post article that my colleague forwarded.
One of the characteristics Americans are known for is optimism. Tomorrow we’ll begin a Socratic Seminar for Oedipus Rex. I will urge my students to comment on the following: “The fall is not pure loss. There is some increase in awareness, some gain in self-knowledge, some discovery…Though it arouses solemn emotion, tragedy does not leave its audience in a state of depression. Aristotle argues that one function of tragedy is to arouse the ‘unhealthy’ emotions of pity and fear and through a catharsis to cleanse us of those emotions.”
I think America needs a Socratic Seminar to process these election results. We need to relearn how to talk to each other and listen respectfully. I won’t stand for bullying or put-downs in the classroom but I will stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and I will stand up for the rights of my students.
People often ask what it’s like to teach students who don’t speak much English. The first question I get is “Do you speak Spanish?” but that’s the wrong question. I speak the language of teens who’ve just arrived in the U.S.A. and find themselves in a wonderful environment of opportunity and freedom for the first time. In my classroom they learn how to conjugate verbs and use academic language, but they also learn how respect boundaries, think critically and value independent learning. In my classroom I give them just enough leeway to be themselves, and I watch as they become a little more American every week. It is both frustration and privilege.
They come into my classroom wearing a uniform of jeans with strategic tears at the knees, carrying colorful Jansport backpacks, the boys in black hoodies or soccer jerseys in the colors of El Salvador or Barcelona; the girls wear tight pants and tops that bare the midriff, having discarded the outer layer as soon as they stepped off the bus. It’s like emptying a cup of marbles through a funnel into a wine bottle, the way they all jostle noisily through the door, a multicolored striata of Tiger’s Eye and mocha lip gloss, high ponytails and giggles. Some smell of last night’s kitchen, some smell of too much cologne sprayed on after PE class. Why don’t they take showers any more? Sometimes I feel invisible as I stand before them. They are so in tune with each others’ every gesture, every flick of a girl’s hair, every nuance of eye contact and intonation, and way too much touching for an Anglo. I feel a surge of panic at the urgency of their physicality – hugging, breathing too close, tapping, elbowing, pressing against, jostling, fake fighting, a burst of Spanish curse words, acne, chewing gum, shampoo, unwashed t-shirt, illicit baseball cap that gets lifted off one boy’s head and passed from gel top to gel top, a bottle of water and a half-eaten ice cream sandwich passes between two girls, licking fingers, chocolate dropped on the floor. The transition music playing through the intercom stops and the bell rings but nobody is sitting down with the book open to page 54 and Luis Chavez is still roaming the back row conversing loudly with with Jose and Karen asks if she can close the windows, bless her heart, she’s wearing a tank top and it’s 20 degrees outside.
I’m patient as they open their books. I teach them how to turn a page without ripping it. How many had consistent schooling in Central America? I teach them the past tense of irregular verbs. How many knew both parents before they came to Maryland? Knew and came. I teach them questions. Why didn’t you eat breakfast? Didn’t eat. I teach them negatives. Please don’t share your answers. I laugh at their little sotto voce jokes in Spanish. English please. I point to the prompt that says On Your Own. Independence is such an American concept. It will come.
I’m not in a hurry. When I was a child, my family moved from Louisiana to upstate New York and then to West Virginia. I had to learn new social rules and a new way of talking each time. And I’m fluent in English. It takes years to get used to a new culture and a new language. Today we’re one step closer. I repeat the pertinent morning announcements for them, slowly and with visuals. I use realia to get them more involved in school activities – like holding up the purple bow for the PTSA Gift Wrap project. Now they get it. Some stay after class and ask who and where and when. For one more day, I’ve given students a safe environment where they can take risks, make mistakes and pick themselves back up to start all over again. I have one of the most important jobs in the country. I’m shaping the next generation of Americans.
What I know about the Anacostia is what others will find out soon, when the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bike path opens in about a month. This DDOT video shows how the last segment of the trail moves north, up through Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, under the New York Avenue bridge, toward Bladensburg Waterfront Park, where it will connect DC to Prince Georges County and to Montgomery County via the Northwest Branch Trail.
For me the smell of the river awakens some deep, visceral connection to my past. I spent so many mornings of my early adulthood pulling an oar through the water that the river has become part of my psyche. The river continues to welcome me and, as I age I appreciate it even more. In the early morning, it smells of wet earth and a world of turtles, birds and fish waking up. This is unlike the Monongahela River, where I learned to row 1978, and it’s completely different from the Potomac River, where I still occasionally ply the waters. For 10 years I’ve been carrying a 24-foot racing shell on my head down to the low rowing dock at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. When I put my boat in the water at 7:00 am on a Saturday, I can see the ethereal morning mist rising up from the river.
The first thing I notice is the tides. If it’s low tide I can see the mud flats reaching into the middle of the river, with ducks and geese squatting on the embankments. I know to avoid these areas because if my skeg gets caught, I’ll have to get out into the thigh-high mud and push. I don’t want to join the Anacostia Swim Team, an exclusive organization for those who fall out of their skinny singles. Or those who didn’t see the hidden logs lurking just below the surface. The second thing I notice is the debris. Did it rain last night? What detritus and branches will I have to dodge? The most beautiful time is a late September morning when the colorful leaves reflect on the water, when the tides are just right and the surface is glassy. On a Saturday morning in early fall, you can see bald eagles with fish in their talons, circling above. Black cormorants stretch their wings to dry from a tree-top perch, like some Dracula opening his cape. White egrets linger into October and dot the shoreline.
In the afternoon, it smells of high school students’ sneakers left on the dock. DeMatha, Seton, Walter Johnson, Blair, Churchill, and Montgomery Rowing all row out of Bladensburg Waterfront Park, as well as Catholic University, University of Maryland, and Washington Rowing School, of which I am a member. In the afternoons it is a chaotic cacophony of boats launching, coxswains shouting, coaches’ motorboats puttering off, yellow buses idling in the parking lot. Once the crews have pushed off, it smells of rich mud and photosynthesis. It’s a smell that says, “Keep Out!” if I turn my head one way and “Welcome Home” if I turn my head the other way.
In the middle of the river, you can see concentric circles where fish have leaped up. Osprey sit singly in the sparest craggy branches of the dead trees. Sometimes you can spot a deer swimming or a other mammals. Once when I was coaching a high school team, the girls Varsity Eight stopped rowing suddenly. I was upset that they weren’t executing the workout plan the way I’d told them. “Wait, stop!” they shouted. I pulled up next to their Eight in my motor boat. “Why did you stop rowing in the middle of the piece?!” I yelled from a megaphone. The girl in Bow Seat gestured at her long oar. I thought maybe her blade had caught a hidden obstacle and the boat was stuck. I wondered what tools I would need to get out of my bag. Instead, there was something I’ll never forget: a baby beaver had swum up to the boat and was resting on the upturned blade of her oar before swimming across the river. I guess he just needed a break.
What I know about the Anacostia River is that it gives us all a break. It is no longer the open wound filthy with pollution, chemical waste, and trash. Even though commuters rush across the New York Avenue bridge without a second glance, that will soon change. The Anacostia used to be a sluggish gash dividing Washington, DC into the Haves and the Have Nots. Anacostia, the community, used to be known for its food-desert neighborhoods, for neighborhoods so riddled with crime and poverty that for decades there wasn’t even a supermarket. At least that’s what I heard on the news. The Anacostia runs past the Anacostia Community Boathouse, a yacht club, and the Navy Yard, where the last tall ship was towed away before the drawbridge is replaced with a fixed-span bridge. It runs past RFK stadium where football and soccer events still draw crowds. There’s now a high-concept walkway accessible to the public just down from the Navy Yard, a welcoming feature where once there was only rubble. “If you build it, they will come.” And they have come. And they keep building. And that’s a good thing, I think.
Rowers have long known the secret world of nature and beauty that is the Anacostia River. The new Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is due to be finished this fall, and will soon delight newcomers the way it’s delighted rowers for years. DC’s “forgotten river” is the one that unites all of DC. It’s the river that draws us to an unexpected natural world of phenomenal beauty in the heart of the city. What I know about the Anacostia is that it’s finally getting the attention and respect that it deserves.
I taught English at the World Trade Institute Language Center on the 55th floor of the World Trade Center for five years in the 1990s. An overlooked incident in 1993 probably saved many lives on 9-11. The first bomb attack happened on my day off, thank God! I was home with my baby, whom I had wheeled in to the office to meet colleagues just days before the bomb blast. A truck full of explosives went off in the lower parking area of One World Trade Center, killing six people. My co-workers and students reported that the first floor rippled as waves of explosives blasted out and up from the basement. Our secretary, who was a Port Authority employee, lost her best friend.
Fellow language teachers told me about the chaos that ensued. They had no idea what was going on. Several listened to the radio or TV in their offices, where reporters were telling them to break windows to let the smoke out. There was no fire alarm, no sprinklers, no plan for evacuation. It took my colleagues four hours to get down the stairs. The Spanish language teacher told me that everyone was calm, that they let a pregnant woman pass in front of them. Nobody panicked. When he finally got to the bottom, he noticed that all the evacuees had little black mustaches from breathing in smoke and fumes. Ironically, he offered people cigarettes to comfort them as they emerged into the bright sun.
By 9-11, the World Trade Center parking garage was too secure for another car bomb. However, there were some positive changes: an evacuation plan was in place, and each floor had a fire chief. It may not have worked perfectly, but when the unimaginable horror of a plane crashing into the Twin Towers occurred eight years later, communication was greatly improved, and tens of thousands of occupants were able to evacuate successfully.
We had just moved back to the U.S. from five years overseas when 9-11 took place. I was one week into my new teaching job, and we were in a new neighborhood. We had just met the elderly ladies on either side of the house – who had given me their phone numbers “just in case.” My boys were in two different elementary schools and were scheduled to walk home from their separate bus stops after school. Normally, I would have arrived home just minutes after they did, but on 9-11 I needed to stay late at school with students waiting for the bus. My new neighbors came to the rescue, each one happy to greet a child and walk home from school with him. After 9-11 I arranged for the boys to attend the YMCA after-school program. After 9-11 I got a cell phone. After 9-11 I had my children carry an Ident-a-Kid safety card in their backpacks and I made sure they had the neighbors’ phone numbers.
After 9-11 I flew an American flag on my porch and felt a surge of pride and patriotism. We were living in a house in suburban Washington DC that was on the flight path to Andrews Air Force Base. I couldn’t sleep for many nights, as I heard huge transport planes fly overhead at 3:00 am, wondering if they were going to drop bombs on me. Irrational fear soon gave way to a feeling of resilience. I was part of a competitive women’s rowing team at the time. We resumed early-morning practices on the Potomac River after about a week. One morning, a police boat appeared at 6:00 am on the pre-dawn Georgetown waterfront asking to see our coach’s permit to operate a motorboat. Suddenly I didn’t feel so reassured. That same week, a police officer stopped me on K Street by pointing what I thought was a gun directly at my oncoming vehicle. It freaked me out. It was one of those speed detectors, but I thought he might shoot me. I was shaking as I pulled away with a ticket for “speeding” in a 25-mph zone. Other security measures took over and somehow I felt less confident in my political leaders than I had before. I took down the American flag.
So much of our mindset has changed since 9-11, especially in terms of airport security and travel. One unpleasant side effect is that we may be less trusting of strangers than ever before – I certainly think that 9-11 turned public opinion against Muslims. I was sharing an office space with a young mixed-race Muslim teacher at the time. She told me that fellow educators were coming up to her and saying, “I know you have nothing to do with this…” or they were saying, “I’m sorry.” She was puzzled by their reactions. She told me that the police came to her house because neighbors reported “a lot of parties” where they thought they saw Mohammed Atta, one of the terrorists. In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, I asked her if she felt more Muslim or more American. She answered that she felt more Muslim. I understood why when she told me how her colleagues and neighbors treated her differently.
This summer when I traveled to Germany, I saw more women in hijab than I’ve ever seen in my seven years of living in three different Muslim countries in Africa. I saw women covered from head to toe in black veils – some even had their hands covered – walking next to husbands wearing shorts and polo shirts. It was shocking to me, coming from the DC area, where I see people from all over the world – often sitting in my classroom. I tried to understand why they were so covered up. I spoke with a woman from Munich who expressed what seemed to be a racist attitude. But she explained that her government granted refugees 800 Euros a month and a place to live; they had an obligation to try to fit in with her culture a little more. She said that families were given prime real estate with an enviable view of the lake, but turned it down because 200 years ago, pork had been prepared on the premises. I could understand her point.
Has 9-11 created an anti-Islam world? I don’t know, but I certainly hope not. There are educated people out there trying to improve understanding between cultures and religions. I follow the writings of Asra Nomani and the Muslim Reform Movement. I know that I work hard to stay informed about what is happening around the world in this scary election year. I hope that Americans will vote based on hope rather than fear. There is room for divergent opinions in a post 9-11 America. Let’s move toward a brighter future where we can accept one another’s differences and invite discussion about the commonalities we share. Can’t we all just get along?
This NPR story about domestic violence and how it affects every student in the classroom is relevant to me. When students act out, you have to wonder what’s going on at home – but this data is alarming! Is it true that 10 to 20 percent of my students experience domestic violence!? Wow! Based on student behaviors in some of my English Language Learner classes, I think the percentage might be on the high end. Students are often reluctant to discuss what is happening at home, but I have the unusual fortune of getting to know students over many years and, once they feel safe with me, they will reveal what’s happening in their lives. Sometimes it’s shocking. Like the student a few years ago who stopped coming to school because she was worried about her stepfather beating her mother while she was gone. The student rationalized that she needed to stay home to protect her mother. In those days teachers did not have the same reporting requirements that we have today. I referred her to the counselor and made a copy of an essay she wrote – in case Child Protective Services was called in. I don’t know what happened to her, but I hope the cycle is broken now that she’s in the USA where help is available (see below).
It’s early in the school year, and I already see the cries for attention. We have so few counselors for the number of students who need help. I hope to be the one person who shows respect to them, who listens and who cares. I feel gratified that one of my seniors, who had me as a freshman, has written in a letter stating that she always felt relaxed the moment she walked into my classroom. That makes me feel hopeful that this year I can be that refuge again. I really love high school students and I love teaching. It’s a privilege and an honor to help develop the workers and leaders of tomorrow.
Here is a link to Domestic Violence Help in Montgomery County MD: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/circuitcourt/court/FamilyDivision/Domestic_Violence/dv.html#DV-On-line-Resources