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.


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