I like making plans. They make me feel safe. When I was little I was told that upon being picked up from preschool I’d say “So what’s the plan?” I like writing down my plans, having long term plans. It’s funny, because I am not always diligent about keeping the plan. I think for me it is simply more about making them.
Today I had a plan. I wanted to step out of my own comfort zone. I wanted to create a song sung in a cappella with the girls.
I chose a song, actually my children did. We listened to it over and over. I spoke to my niece who is an a cappella maven and I printed out the words. I practiced with my three girls at home. I was excited and a little nervous. I like to sing. I am good at it, but really I am a theatre person more than anything. Teaching a cappella? We’ll see.
My juvie girls could not have been less interested. This group can sing. They like to sing. BUT, alas, they did not like the song I picked. They thought the a cappella arrangement I had them listen to was “just not right.”
One explained, “Ms. I don’t do this music.” I made them sing anyway. I mean, come on. I had a plan. They were so not interested. They had a different plan.
I have a new probation officer in my class. It is incredibly refreshing to have someone on my side. She was suggesting songs, pulling them up on her phone. The girls were telling what songs they want to sing …not one is appropriate. My plan not only wasn’t working, it was demolished and burned before I even had a chance.
There is one particular girl in this group who has been trouble from the start. She is different than the rest. She is white, educated, smart and extremely cynical. She has attitude that can and is killing me. She acts and sits in class “suffering”. She makes comments and seems not to want to be there; several times I have been close to asking her to leave.
I have no idea how and if she will participate in the show. She will not dance. She will not read. She rolls her eyes at me and has been rude and actually a little disrespectful. I will not kick a kid out of the group, but this is the first time I really, really want to.
“I’m not singing,” she said. “This is so stupid.” She rolls her eyes.
“Don’t roll your eyes at me,” I say. (oyy!)
“Don’t tell me what to do!” she says.
The girls sing and I see her singing
“I saw you sing. That’s great!” I say.
“I didn’t! You didn’t see anything!”
Oh my god!
“You know you don’t have to be here,” I say. “This is not a court mandated program.”
“Actually I do, I have to be here.”
“Actually you don’t .Why don’t you stay after class and we will discuss this cause you really DO NOT have to be here.”
Secretly, a part of me hopes she will just leave on her own.
Although I know she will not.
“I am not staying to talk to you about what I just said!”
“OK”. I say.
Any good teacher knows, if the lesson plan isn’t going well, ditch it!
I say goodbye to the song I so wanted to teach and move on.
“Our final presentation is in 3 weeks lady’s” I say.
“People will be coming to see you”
“What do you want people to learn about you? What do you want people to see in the show?”
She says, “No one has to learn anything about me: everyone knows me.”
“Really?” I say.
“Yes” She says, and proceeds-
“Raise your hand if you know I am smart”
They all do.
“Raise your hand if you know I am a bitch”
They all do.
She continues for three, four more raise your hand sentences.
“See Ms. they know everything about me. Nothing to tell.”
“There must be something they don’t know,” I say
“Think of one thing we don’t know and share with us.”
It is quiet. My new truly amazing PO officer chimes in.
“I bet you they don’t know your father is Italian.”
“Oh” “Wow!” “Really?” “Do you like Italian food?” The other girls ask.
“Where is your mom from?”
“She is dead.”
It gets very quiet.
“She died when I was 2.”
“Well, where was she from?” One says smiling trying to make things better.
“I don’t know.”
“What was her name?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know her name--don’t even know what she looks like, never saw a picture of her. My father hated her and her family.”
“You have money right?” One asks her.
“You have money?”
“I don’t have money- money, but yeah, I have money.”
“Well, girlfriend, go on ancestry.com and find your mama!!!”
“I don’t care, why should I? She chose drugs and alcohol over me. I don’t want to know about her. Besides, my sister said we are better without her, that she was horrible.”
And there is the whole story in one sentence.
“My mother chose drugs and alcohol over me –I don’t even want to know her name.”
Does my a cappella song really matter right now?
“Ok” she says,
“Here is another thing you don’t know about me.
I DO NOT date white men, ever”
One of the African American girls walks over and gives her a high five.
“You go girl!” the other one says.
“You know what they say….once you go black ……..”
Everyone laughs. CS
“Believe me I didn’t go back, she says.”
There is some giggling and warmth in the room.
This is a group that knows pain, deep pain, but they are pushing through.
I don’t know what I will do with this girl. I actually have no plan. I will just let her be. If she will make it through and perform, I will be happy. And if she bails out, I will understand.
On this one, I will have to let the plan make itself, because some plans just cannot be planed.