Saturday, April 25, 2009

Small Town Teacher Rock Star Blues

I am a rock star. A small-town rock star, but still a rock star. I am recognized when I am out and about. People know who I am, even though I may not know who they are. They feel comfortable in approaching me, whatever their agenda. For I am a rock star.

And with the persona of rock star comes responsibility to contain my behavior within certain parameters. Just because I don't want to be a rock star does not relieve me of that responsibility. Because I am a rock star, I can not be seen in certain establishments, can not dress in certain clothing which might be deemed inappropriate for a person of my rock starness, can not speak in certain manner, can not revel in my political affiliations, can not live a life outside of the mainstream mores. What I CAN and MUST do is promote a positive view of my place of employment, turn the other cheek, grin and bear it, and save the world.

Minding my own business at The Devil's Playground last week, racing up and down the aisles like a Supermarket Sweep contestant, but without all the frozen turkeys and disposable diapers, in a hurry to get 'er done and get home to pack for my boys' bowling trip...I was recognized. At first it was just a stare, to which I always want to retort, "Take a picture, it'll last longer," on a good day, and, "What the f*#& are YOU looking at?" on a bad day. Then I crossed from the whole-wheat bagels into the insect spray, and the Fan followed.

"Aren't you Mrs. Hillbilly Mom?"
"Can I talk to you confidentially about something?"
"I will not discuss it with anybody."
"Do you know Student?"
"Yes. From last year. Student is a good kid."
"Student thinks the world of you."
"That's good to know. I enjoyed Student."
"Well, Student's mom and I are worried about Student."
"Oh? I only see Student in the hall this year."
"Yes. Student used to be so full of ambition. And now something is wrong."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"We are all so worried. Student won't talk to us."
"Sometimes kids are like that at this age."
"Yes. We really want to help. You know how kids are these days about suicide. It's really got us worried. Something is wrong, and Student won't share it with us."

At this point, the Fan had tears streaming down the face. This made cold-hearted Mrs. HM leak a few eye rivulets as well. Right in the middle of The Devil's Playground. What do you say to something like this?

"I see Student in the hall between classes, and Student always speaks to me."
"Student is not the same. Student is sad all the time."
"I have noticed that there are days when Student is not as cheerful as last year."
"We are at a loss. We just don't know what to do. Do you think you could talk to student. Without student knowing about this?"
"I can ask Student 'How's it going?' when I see student in the hall. You know, because there are people all around, but Student will know that I'm accessible if needed."
"Oh, that would be great."
"I can't guarantee anything, because a lot of these kids don't want to talk to adults."
"Yes, but maybe Student will open up because Student likes you so much."
"I know I will have Student in class next year. That's what Student talks to me about in the hall. Student is looking forward to my class."
"Yes. I'm hoping we can find out what's bothering Student, so we can help."
"You DO understand that if Student says anything that worries me, I will have to report it to the counselor."
"Yes. And you could let me and Student's mother know if there's something to be concerned about. Without Student knowing."
"Yes. But Student may no want to tell me anything."
"I know. But we don't know what else to do."
"I'll do what I can."
"Thank you so much. It really means a lot to us."

What can I do? I don't want anything to happen to Student. But I'm not a miracle worker. I spoke to Student in the hall. Student was having a good day. I will make it a point to greet student every day as Student passes.

I feel like I have a great responsibility. I don't want to go to the counselor unless there is something to be concerned about. The counselor always pulls kids in to talk if you mention something. I don't want to betray trust after promising confidentiality. But I WILL sing like a canary if Student seems to be in harm's way. It's all I can do.

Being a rock star is such a balancing act.

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