April 21, 2013

Not MY Child

I should be taking a mental break from work, but the truth is, I can't stop thinking about one of my students.

I know you're going to say that I shouldn't be so surprised, but let me explain...

"Ms. L, can I see you in the hallway for a minute?" one of my students asked me on Thursday. I walked out there ready to hear about the latest drama related to the impending fight we'd been working all week to avoid. At the request of her mother and our Dean of Students, I kept this student in my classroom all day where we were sure she wouldn't get into trouble.

When her eyes filled with tears, though, I knew something was really wrong.

"I'm pregnant!" she confessed in barely audible whisper. And then she collapsed into my arms while her tears freely flowed and my heart dropped to the floor.

"No!" is all I kept thinking as I choked back my own tears, "Please let this be a mistake. Not her!"

I was warned by coworkers last fall that pregnancies happen here. In fact, we've routinely discussed students we believed to be at-risk. And if I'm honest, this student was on the list from the beginning. And that's exactly why we've talked about it. Often.

You see, this girl is my "project" child for the year (Those that have followed my blog for a while know that I always have at least one in my classroom. Someone who needs a little extra TLC to make a positive change in his/her own life.). Her mom was in prison until this past February, she was expelled last year, she is known all over school for her temper and instigating fights.

But, from the very beginning of the year, I saw the sweet girl beneath all that trouble. I saw a very capable student who was too frequently distracted by the mess around her. So, I adopted this child. We created a behavior tracker together and monitored her progress with fidelity. She hasn't spent a single day in ISS all year because I've helped her learn how to control her mouth (my mom is laughing right now... this was my problem as a teenager too) and she's learned not to resort to physical violence every time she's upset.

My students often call her my mini-me because she's always with me and she quotes me all the time when her peers are misbehaving. She will even grab my iPad and threaten to mark them in Kickboard (our school-wide PBIS system) when they don't comply with redirections. It's quite entertaining, actually.

When her mom came to school for the first time last month, she proudly walked her to my classroom declaring, "This is my school-mama I was telling you about." Our bond is that tight.

So, I guess that explains why I feel like I've failed her. I tried so hard to protect her from adverse consequences. But this, I could not control.

"I'm too young for this," she bemoaned.

She is. 

We spent the day writing notes back and forth on my iPad. I welcomed her to share her thoughts and questions and assured her that I will continue to hold her hand. But my heart hurts for her. Life, as she knows it, will never be the same.

And mine may not be either.


  1. OH Erin I'm so sorry to hear about this. :( As teachers, our mothering is unfortunately limited to school hours, so please don't take this as a personal failure. The fact that she came to you should tell you how much you have influenced her. I wish I had more to offer other than ((HUGS)).

  2. I'm so sorry to read this, Erin!! Thinking of you, praying for this young student that she would continue to look up to you and your wisdom in a difficult situation...


  3. I've been thinking of you and your student a lot. Wishing you both well.

    Mrs. Bartel’s School Family