Every teacher knows they exist, yet denies it. The unreachables. We would all love to believe we have the superpowers to reach every child but we don't. We look in see upon that one teacher who seems to have that magic wand, while brainstorming and bitching about that one unreachable student we all know about. Ugh Jacob, Oh that Christie, I knew those piercings spelled trouble.
With these children, we each count our little blessings. Baby steps.
I remember J who, just like any unreachable, was immediately identifiable in a classroom. She wore a permanent sneer on her face, rarely did her schoolwork and brought down the mood of any teacher.
I grew accustomed to her sneer, but that didn't mean I liked it. I would be lying if I told you there were those occasional days I hoped she would be absent, just so I would not have her eyes drill holes through me like fiery daggers.
I had perhaps my most embarrassing moment one morning in the classroom. The previous evening, my brilliant dogs decide to literally smell the butt of a skunk and you can guess the result. I spent most of the evening dousing them in tomato sauce (not leaving myself out) an frantically laundering anything remotely stinky. I hurriedly left my fowl odored one and got to school only to realize I reeked. I had just enough time to run to the 24 hour Winco and buy...something. Due to limited time, I grabbed a can of cinnamon scented Lysol and beelined back to school in a haze of chemicals.
I greeted my first period class with a cloud of aerosol and in walks J. "Ugh it f*cking stinks like sh*t in here" she retorts, looking straight at me. I feel like I am back in high school, being teased by the cool kids for wearing the wrong brand of jeans. Why did J have to show up today?!?? A few other students scrunch their noses against the smell and I decide to inform them yes, it smells, it's me, sorry.
As the class works independently and I wander around leaving a scent trail as I monitor their progress, I do my best to avoid J and inconspicuously dodge her desk until I have to face her. She scrunched her nose, waves her hand to circulate the air and then bends towards me. This is unusual. She then whispers, "there are some clothes down the street at the college maybe no one will catch me..gimme some cash and I will try and get you something, just tell everyone I am in the bathroom". I am flabbergasted, thinking, is she trying to steal my money? Meet her boyfriend at the college and run away? What is her ulterior motive? Surely I shouldn't be so skeptical but her track record wasn't in her favor. I then realize regardless of her intentions, I can't let her ditch school, so I cautiously try and dissuade her.
During passing period, I let security know to keep an eye out in case I didn't succeed in changing her mind, and the secretary lets me know they have some spare clothes used for when kids don't adhere to dress code. I look into the clothing bin and end up teaching the rest of my classes in a school logo t shirt, boys husky long shorts, white boys knee socks, and combat boots. I was much less skunky but looked...to quote my students, "like a chollo", male version of the noun intended.
The skunk incident behind me, J ends up in trouble and I have to call her foster mom to set up a parent conference. I aka if J is always so unreachable and snarky and her mom says yes, but that J has taken a liking to me. I tell her about J offering to go buy me clothes when I was malodorous and she is taken back and even though we were talking on the phone, I could tell she was smiling. She said "J must really look up to you, thank you".
I couldn't get J to be the poster child perfect student and we weren't buddy buddy, but after that, she seemed to sneer a little less. I might not have magically transformed her, but I think somehow (how, I will never know) I worked a little magic, reaching the surface of an unreachable.