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If You’re Gonna Break The Law, Do It At Home

, , , , | Learning | October 27, 2020

I’m a teacher in a somewhat “rough” area. Try as we might, we can’t always convince our students to stop hanging out with people who might get them into trouble.

I’m a female. When I’m not in school, I look nothing like my “teacher” appearance. In school, I look like a stereotypical librarian: professional clothes, my hair up in a bun, glasses, the whole nine yards. On the weekends, I wear T-shirts, a denim jacket, leggings or sweatpants, and my hair down to the middle of my back.

One weekend, I’m out running errands and decide to get lunch from my favorite cafe. I take my lunch out to a city park, find a bench, and start eating and browsing on my phone. From across the park, I hear a group of about seven or eight teens and young adults laughing and joking. I don’t pay any attention to them until it becomes clear that they are trying to get my attention.

Boy #1: “Hey, pretty lady. How about you share your lunch with us?”

Boy #2: “Yeah, pretty girl like you doesn’t need that much food. We can help you finish whatever you don’t eat.”

The group carries on for a few minutes, trying harder and harder to get a rise out of me, but I ignore them. After a few minutes, the group gives up and sits down at a picnic table near me, and I start smelling something that I haven’t smelled since college. I finally look over to the group, and they are passing around and smoking a plant-based drug, and they’re also passing around a bottle of alcohol.

I make eye contact with one of the teenage girls and recognize her as one of my best students in class. As soon as we make eye contact, she also recognizes me. In total shock, she blurts out my name and starts begging me not to get her in trouble.

Unfortunately, another park patron had already called police on the group for their drug and alcohol use. I had to identify my student to the police, along with some of the other young people who had been in my classes before dropping out or getting too old to graduate.

All of the young people were charged for smoking the drug and for public alcohol consumption, both of which are illegal in our city. Those who were not of age also received citations for underage alcohol consumption.

Of course, I had to report my student to the school principal, and she was given in-school suspension for a week. The principal wanted to suspend her out of school, but I argued that that would only drive her back to the same group of troublemakers and that it would be better for her to be in school, away from them.

When the girl was allowed back to class, she came in during my free hour to apologize for her behavior and to thank me for helping to reduce her school punishment. We had a heartfelt conversation about choosing the right people to surround yourself with, and so far, she has stayed out of trouble. I don’t know if she still hangs out with that group outside of school, but I really hope she doesn’t.