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04 January 2007

Are We Cursed?

As soon as I walked in the school building yesterday morning, I knew something wasn't right. I saw the principal speaking earnestly with the guidance counselor, saw our former principal coming up the hall, and saw some girls talking to a teacher and crying. A few minutes later, one of my kids asked me if I had heard about the student who had been killed in an accident the night before. Evidently he was going way too fast around a sharp curve near his home, lost control, and went flying off the road.

He was a senior, and, as with our last student death, a kid I had never taught. Not having great academic or conduct records, he was nonetheless one of those kids who had been muddling through enough to graduate. Apparently he drove in this fashion all the time, and I've heard he had compiled nine tickets in his short driving life. Call me callous, but this lessens my sympathy for him, though not for his family.

By 8:30 yesterday morning, the usual army of counselors had set up shop in the media center, and, as with our student death earlier in the year, I stayed away. Some kids, including a few with virtually no connections to the student, were in there all day.

My real connection to this situation is that his girlfriend is in my first period class, so my second thought (after, "Dammit. Not again.") was about her. She's a sweet girl from a troubled family, and I knew she would be devastated.

She has been to school the last couple of days to talk with counselors and a teacher who is a good mentor for her, but has not been coming to class. Really, she shouldn't until Monday. And although I am very fond of her, I'll admit I was relieved that she didn't come to class today, and that I didn't have to squarely face the situation yet. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I find myself resistant to the whole idea of dealing with student grief right now. I'm not proud of this, but I've seen such excesses in response to death already this year that I'm a little numbed to it. (In addition to previously catalogued excesses over our murdered student earlier in the year, not long ago I had no less than seven girls tardy to class because they all had to be in the bathroom crying with their friend whose grandfather had just passed away from Alzheimer's complications).

Certainly if my student needs my help, I'll give it in a heartbeat. Maybe what she will need from me though, in the week and half we have left in this semester, is as much of a normal environment as possible.

Or maybe I'm trying to justify some disturbing reactions on my part.

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