Dear Students: Remember, You Cannot Control the Environment that You Live In
When a student comes to school with a bed bug crawling on his collar, do you still greet him with the same hug that you usually do every morning? When you have to remove him from the classroom, and he doesn't understand why, how do you explain it to him? I tried. And when we talked about it, he said he has seen them all over his house. My immediate thought was that he probably has the bedbugs confused with roaches. I told him they may need to get rid of the furniture. He said his mom never throws anything away. He said she's a hoarder. I could see so much of little me in his face. Of all of the life experiences that I have been able to relate to when it comes to my kids, living with a hoarder is one of the most traumatic ones. Its not just stuff - it's a projection of everything that is psychologically damaged within the minds of our parents.
Waking up with bugs and rodents is a sure sign that something is not right in the home. I began to tell him that I grew up with a hoarder too. We couldn't even take showers in the bathroom and having company was taboo. But I lived on Manhattan Ave, I knew that everyone knew. Especially my teachers, so I told him exactly what they used to tell me: You cant control the environment that you live in... its not your fault.
I told him I love him. This tall, 15-year old, Harlem-born, Black boy started to cry. For once, I didn't. I fake-smiled and said, "No, don't be sad... You cant cry, you have to get excited because we are learning something new today and you only have 4 years left before you get to leave home and go to college and you'll use what you learn today when you get there. We cant cry, our future is too bright. We have to get excited." I can usually make him smile, just by smiling at him first but his Afro-Asian eyes were blank. His silk mahogany cheeks wet with tears, even as he walked down the long hall to see the nurse.
After half the day passed, he was allowed to come back to class. He was embarrassed when he came back in. The dean told him that he cannot sit on my carpet or my big chair. And some how the boys found out about the bugs and now they don't want to sit near him. I'm sorry but I made his partner sit with him anyway. He was checked. He is fine. We will not be ostracizing one another in my room. Not this day, not ever. I may have to do a lesson on this - but not today. Exactly how I will do it, I don't know yet but it must be addressed. Bed bug bites leave more than just irritating itches on a child. And its just sad to me, adults forgo the social and mental development of their children when they don't value the upkeep of the home. I can't write anymore... I have to get to work.