Saturday, February 07, 2009

Good Doggie, or The Most Interesting Things Happen When You Have a Student Teacher

Mrs. Jayhawker is flying solo this week (and doing a pretty good job of it, I might add), so I'm trying to make myself useful outside of my classroom. I've been getting a lot of team paperwork done, wrote a new benchmark quiz, and have done some one-on-one sessions with most of our kids to let them know what they need to do for the remainder of the school year to get academically promoted to eighth grade. For lack of a better place to work, I've sort of camped out in guidance, using a student laptop to work on stuff and hopefully lend a hand when needed (like the other day when Pinball Boy was having his meltdown.)

So, when Mr. Enforcer told me he'd need my help around 9 on Friday morning, I got curious.

"Something interesting going to happen?" I asked. I worked with him earlier in the year when we had a big deal disaster drill with some visiting consultants, and I knew they were coming back some time so I thought that might be it.

"Maybe," he said vaguely.

"Well, I have a student teacher so if there's anything she needs to know, I'd like to prep her," I said. I've been a sub and a student teacher and there's not much worse than being in a situation where you have no clue what to do.

"We may have some visitors and we may do a lockdown," he said. "Here's a print out of the procedure so she has it handy."

I thanked him, went in to see her (the kids were at their related arts) and gave her the lowdown, or what I knew so far. If she was lucky, it would happen at nine when all she had in the room were the kids that were supposed to show up for homework clinic.

I was on my way to Mr. Enforcer's Office when I heard him come over the intercom with the lockdown message. Kids were snatched into classrooms, doors went closed, and I hustled up to the front office to see a whole slew of law enforcement vehicles out front and a lot of officers in the lobby - with dogs!

Hey, it's a great day for a locker search!

It's no secret that drugs are a huge problem in schools, even elementary schools, sad to say, and even in schools in "good" communities. I taught in a nice rural area up North and we had a huge drug problem in that community (which always kind of made me shake my head when I'd hear parents yabber about how they moved to the country to escape the big city problems.) I've seen rich kids involved, and poor kids, and there's really no common denominator outside of the fact that they made some poor choices in life and were obviously missing something somewhere. We had regular sweeps, and managed to limit a lot of the drug problem at school because the kids knew that there could be a sweep at any time. True, they took the trade off-campus, but it did put a dent in the on-campus problems.

However, in the six years I've been at The School, we've never had a drug sweep. The first superintendent I served under absolutely refused to do so as he feared it would give the public the wrong idea. Honestly, I'd love it if they did the sweeps every quarter so the kids knew, like the ones up North, that bringing the stuff to school was a risk. Sadly, however, we've seen a big spike in drug trafficking in our area, including some rather large drug busts (one of which happened on parent conference day and made me wonder if perhaps some of my parents were a bit preoccupied with being arrested..) Our current superintendent decided it would be a good idea to sweep all the high schools and middle schools and see what they could find.

Mr. Enforcer gave me a bag of locker key masters and told me to go with one of the officers and sweep the sixth grade area. I ended up with an officer from a neighboring county who had a very sweet yellow lab who was prancing around and bubbling with excitement. It was obvious that this dog loved her job. We went through the sixth grade area, checked all the lockers, and the bathrooms, and came up clean. That was good.

"So," I asked the officer as we headed back to the main part of the building, "what would your dog do if she did smell something in a locker?"

"Oh, she'd sit down in front of it, like those dogs there," he said as we rounded the corner and spied two dogs sitting down in front of some lockers right outside my classroom.

Oh dear.

I knew who these lockers belonged to, and it wasn't even a surprise that the dogs got a hit on those lockers. One of the kids is the child of parents who deal in drugs (a well-known fact in the area) and has often been named as a source in the building although we've never been able to catch him with anything. The other is a kid who I've suspected was a user simply because of his demeanor most of the time. The officers searched these lockers, and came up empty for any illegal substances.

The only other hits were apparently quite a few down in the eighth grade wing, but again, a search was conducted and nothing was found. The officer I was with said that they often take the dogs to elementary schools and let the kids pet them and often the dog will indicate the presence of drugs on one of the children - they are so sensitive to the scent they will pick it up on clothing that a kid wears in a home where the parents are users. Considering the two lockers that were checked by my room, this didn't surprise me at all.

All in all it took an hour to sweep the building (and it was their second of the day) and then they were off to another school. Once the kids were released from lockdown and sent off to their classes the rumor mill began, so the teachers were instructed to let them know that they were put in lockdown to keep them out of the way, there was no danger, and this was a county-wide search and not a target at the school.

But you knew the rumor mill was going to go into high gear right away. Mrs. Language and Miss Reading asked me to come into their classes and talk to the kids about it ("Because you were in on the whole thing...") and I basically said that I wasn't telling them anything about what I saw, and if any of them heard from someone else whose locker was searched then they should consider it nothing but a lie and idle gossip because no students were out there and none of them have a clue what they are talking about. It didn't stop the kids from speculating (and amazingly, can you guess what names kept coming up? The kids who did have their lockers searched).

An unintended consequence of this whole thing? It got the kids so worked up that many of them started going to guidance and telling on kids they knew who had, in their possession, illegal substances. (Obviously, we didn't search the kids, they were in the classrooms.) By the end of the day we had expelled three for possession, sale, and use of prescription drugs. Raiding Mom and Dad's medicine cabinet has become big business for some of these kids (wonder how many of them are selling their own ADHD meds?) This is obviously a step up from a few years ago when my students were busy stealing over the counter cold medicine out of the bathroom cabinet and trying to get high off of that.

Just another one of those days that they don't prepare you for in teacher school...


KRK said...

So true on the last thought! We've never had searches at my middle school, but this is the first year the students have lockers. I'm sure a search would yield a lot...

It's interesting that the students started informing on each other. 'Round here, it's difficult to convince many students to pass along any information. I'm proud of your students!

Margaret Kravat said...

Being a teacher is very interesting, isn't it? There's never a dull moment! I'm sure your student teacher will have a lot to write about...if her university makes her keep a student teaching journal - mine did.

I'm actually surprised you can leave your student teacher alone in the classroom. In my state, because student teachers are not certified, they cannot be left alone in the classroom without someone who is certified.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Here at The Remote School they've had several lockdowns-and-searches this year, but before I came. I can't wait for the next one!

Liz Ditz said...

Well, I agree that prevention (regular sweeps) is better than the alternative.

It's not always the kids.

Here's a story about a school nurse stealing kids' medication.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Liz, sad to say, that's not the first time I've heard that. A good friend of mine (now retired) taught at a school where the principal was stealing the kids' medication.

I've had parents sell it on the street, especially in October/November when they're trying to get cash for Christmas.