Missing the Obvious

Dear Ms. Jones,

I had a long talk with your daughter, Teresa, today, and it was so illuminating and, quite frankly, terrifying that I thought I should share with you some of that conversation.

I asked her, “What do you do when, in the middle of class, someone angers you? What do you think is an appropriate way to deal with this?”

“Jump up, throw the desk, and square of,” she responded, matter-of-factly. “You know, like ‘Come on! Let’s go!'”

“Do you see a problem with that solution?”

“No.” She grew quite serious. “Cause I fight and she won’t say nothin’ after that. I be like ‘Bam! Bam! Bam!'” she continued, making jabbing motions with her fists to punctuate her story, “and then it all over.” After a pause, she added as an afterthought, “Cuz I don’t lose fights.”

“You don’t see any problem with that, though? That solution doesn’t cause other problems?”

She cocked her head to the side for a moment, then had an epiphany: “Yeah, cuz you could hurt your back throwin’ that desk.”

“You don’t see any other possible problem?”

And believe it or not, she couldn’t. As far as she was concerned, m’am, it was the ideal solution to the problem.

I don’t know how she got this way, but your daughter is literally living in an alternative reality. It’s a world in which it is perfectly acceptable and logical to stand up in the middle of whatever is going on and start a physical altercation with an individual if he or she “make me mad.” It is a world in which fists are the first and last solution to every problem. And I’m afraid that if she continues to see the world in those terms, if she continues to live in a reality that is so radically different from the rest of society’s, society, being unwilling to deal with the problem, will take care of the symptoms and lock her up.

I mention all of this to you because she constantly referred, in her conversation, as the rest of society as “having problems.” She told me she once grew so angry with a teacher for suggesting that perhaps the problem lay within her “that oooooooo, I wanted to slap her right upside the face.” She concluded with what seems to be her mantra: “Oooooooo, she make me so mad!” So this is not an issue that any one non-family member (teacher, administrator, therapist, etc.) can deal with. We need some serious help from you. Your daughter’s life — her entire future — hinges on the habits she creates during the next few years. She’s already got some bad ones; we need to work together to help her get some that will lead to success and not a bench behind some bars.

Respectfully and with hope,
Your Daughter’s Teacher

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