the students, part 3: Reggie

“I’ve never felt threatened until now.”

Those are the words I recall saying to my administrator about Reggie. 

It was my second year of teaching, and Reggie was a latecomer to my class.  On his first day, he sat down and went to sleep.  When I tried to encourage him to participate in the bill simulation that we were working on, he quietly got up and walked out. 

I decided a phone call home was in order, but that was easier said than done.  The first number I tried was the infamous Dollar Tree trick.  A student gives a phone number as their home number, only it’s not their home, it’s the Dollar Tree.  So after some digging, I found the number for his grandmother, who was listed as his guardian.  The conversation went like this:

me: I’m calling because I want to make sure Reggie is on track to complete this course.
grandmother: i don’t have anything to do with Reggie.
me: can you give me the contact information of someone I can talk to about Reggie?
grandmother: you can try his aunt and uncle.

After calling his aunt, uncle, mother (imagine that), and a sibling, I soon realized that no one was willing to take responsibility for Reggie.  A look back at his records told me that he came to our school from a neighboring county, and when I inquired about that situation, I realized that he wasn’t new to our school at all.  He was expelled the previous year as a result of several violent offenses, moved to a different county, and re-enrolled for the new school year.  (a fun loophole in local education policy)

All of this took place while I tried to facilitate learning for Reggie.  He was not willing to do as much for himself though, and one day he exploded.  The years have erased the words, but the general meaning was this: Reggie was not doing his work, I prompted him to get on task, he crossed the line in his response, I wrote a referral to send him out, which prompted him to rattle off a number of angry responses, including an accusation that I was a racist. 

When I documented his outburst on his referral it earned him several days in ISS (in-school suspension).  Unfortunately for the next two days, Reggie did not go to ISS.  Instead, he found his way to my classroom window where he stood and stared at me as I tried to teach.  Each time I called security.  Finally he was removed from my class roster permanently, though I still saw him occasionally around campus. 

I wondered what Reggie was most angry about – the fact that I took action against him, or the feeling that I had given up on him just like everyone else in his life.

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