Sunday, March 11, 2012

When Charles tried to kill me

One of my students favorite stories to hear me tell is "The one where the kid tried to shoot you."

Charles was in my French 1 class in 9th grade. It was my first year teaching and his first year with no special education services. He'd been in the self-contained class (the kids called it "the box") for all of elementary and middle school. His parents didn't want him to be "different" any more.

Charles didn't bring anything to class - no paper or pen, never his textbook. He would look around at classmates to entertain. He'd geture and mouth words or heck just talk out during a lesson. He would spin in the desk - like spin the desk around in a circle while sitting in it. Or turn it around and push the desk backwards with his feet  to slide across the floor. Just really wild crazy stuff. He was always smiling and goofing around. He never seemed mean.

One afternoon I had had it with him. I called his home. I spoke to his grandfather. He in turn yelled at Charles and cussed him out - with me still on the phone. I prayed that night that I hadn't gotten Charles beat up or abused. He wasn't at school that next day and I prayed harder.

He was in my 5th period class. This day, he came in my room at 8:55 am - just about 5 minutes before the bell rang to begin 1st period. He struts over saying, "Hey Miss Parks, I'm gonna blow you away." I had been writing an assignment on the board. I looked over and said "Oh yeah? Charles you're about 5 hours early to my class," and kept writing. "You don' believe me? I gotta gun. I'm gonna blow your head off." I stopped writing and turned toward him. He was a little guy - about 5'2'' - he was walking with his arms wrapped around his jacket as if he had something to hide under it. I totally didn't believe him. So is an act of naive bravado I slowly extended my arms out to the sides as if to say, "OK take your best shot.

The year was 1992 - long befor Columbine. I don't think I'd do that again.

Charles said, "Oh you don' believe me? After school I'm gonna blow you away." I said, "Charles, have a nice day and I'll see you 5th period." He strutted out. On his way out I noticed he leaned over by Neal's desk. The bell rang and I was shooing kids in from the hall to their seats. Neal, a blond senior with glasses, raises his hand. I walk over and he says, "Charles showed me a gun in his jacket." I said, "Was it real?" Neal shrugged and said, "I don't know. It looked real." I said thanks.

Rather than calling the office right away, I took roll and taught for about 15 minutes. They tell you in college never to leave the classroom. They say if you must, then leave them with something to do and tell them not to get out of their seats. I had to teach before I could give them the assignment I had copied.

Finally I went to the nearest administrator's office and told her what had happened.  She came to my room adn took Neal into the hall to interview him about what happened. About an hour later the assistant principal came to me and told me, "You won't be seeing Charles any more. He had a gun. It was only a cap gun so he couldn't have shot you, but he could have scared you to death." They expelled him for threatening a teacher's life. That was the last I heard of it. Or Charles.


Camping Trip July 2011

We went camping. The boys had begged to go and finally we got around to planning a trip – during the hottest week of the summer so far. At some point the first night I had to blog the old fashioned, low tech way... writing down thoughts on paper with a pen. The following is what I wrote:


Lately I can’t access any emotion except extreme uncontrollable laughter.  When things get crazy I get the giggles. Gut wrenching, tear rolling, wheeze inducing giggles.

I am a part time SAHM. I teach 10 months and SAHM 2 months. Summer vacation is putting me over the edge. Already anxiety ridden since childhood, having to manage the energy of 2 young boys pumped up my disquietude quite a bit. Summer staying home is like an instant scratch and win lottery ticket to the funny farm.

Remember the scene in the film “Parenthood” where Steve Martin’s grandmother in law shared a quaint anecdote about a roller coaster being exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time? Later in the movie parenting chaos ensues and Steve is shown in a close up shot looking nauseous and then laughing with a SFX of roller coaster sounds and kids laughter.

This film came to mind tonight as we were beginning a two day camping trip in the North Georgia mountains. We’d set up camp and driven 8 miles to town to eat dinner at a Pizza Hut and get groceries for the next day.  We had been gone for about 2 hours when we started the twisty mountain road back to the state park when we started giving the boys the bear and forest animal safety lecture.  My husband is saying “... and we cannot leave any food anywhere around because bears will smell it and come to get it...” and Matt interrupts him: “Drew left a Ritz in the tent.”

Cue roller coaster. And giggles.

DH is not happy. He speeds up. He is imagining the new tent and our gear all shredded up by the bear who wanted one cracker. The winding road really does mimic a rollercoaster’s curvy path. I, having yet another ridiculous fit of laughter, can only see Steve Martin’s queasy face through the blur of tears collecting in my eyes.

The most ridiculous shit happens to me.  Amazing mischief my boys get into. So after getting through the terrible 2’s with my eldest (his 2’s lasted from 18 months until 4 1/2) and now the younger is 5 and his 2’s hit about a year ago, I guess the Real Serious Danger has subsided to the point where I relax enough in between panic attacks that I can laugh and I am so worn out from the last 7 years that I have e little rage and hysteria left to expend. Is that why all I can do is laugh?

We turn off the main road almost with my Volvo wagon just about on 2 wheels into the State Park.  I feel the need to pull it together – get serious – forge a solidarity with DH in his concern for the tent that may well be destroyed by Smokey by now. I decide to sing a spiritual. I start out, “Swing low, sweet chariot, comin fo to carry me home...” the boys join in and sing ..”Swing low sweet chariot, the bear’s going to eat your Ritz.” This does not help me.

So here we are on vacation –no harm came from our little forager’s storing up food for hibernation. Night has fallen.  I blog the old fashioned way: pen, paper in lantern light out side the tent. I have no DVR, VM text, FB or DVD to distract me. I’m drinking an Australian Shiraz out of a metal camping cup (straight from the bottle was the only alternative) while DH is in the tent saying “lie down and be quiet” every 45 seconds.

Maybe R & R and fresh country air will settle my nerves and I’ll be a more serene mother tomorrow. I should wrap it up and hit the hay.

Cue thunder rumbling in the distance

Oh boy.

Cue giggles.


Favorite quote from the trip:


This is the best time I’ve ever had in my life.  Well, it’s not better then New York City but....impressed....I mean I’m not knocked out or anything, but....impressed.