Here in Chicago we’ve been experiencing an extremely warm spring. We just finished off eight record days of over 80 degrees. The exceptionally warm weather has really brought about quite a bit of turmoil in the neighborhood where I teach. The gangs have been becoming more active and my students look at me worriedly every time they hear a police siren outside.
The warm weather has also brought something out in one of my more difficult students, Juan (pseudonym used), who I dedicated a whole blog entry to in December. Recently Juan’s behavior has been slowly spiraling out of control, but what happened this past week was unexpected.
Last Monday, as I was sitting at my computer checking my email, I glanced outside and saw that Juan had arrived at school earlier than usual. He was playing with some of the students from his class, but there was something about the look on his face that made me do a double take. I’m not sure at what I saw, but I knew right then that something was “off.” In my head I thought “oh no!” and I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day—my instincts were right.
When Juan came into my class about an hour later, I could tell he was looking for a fight and I was his main target. I quickly took the strategy of staying positive and redirecting his focus to what he should be doing. He wandered around the classroom disturbing his classmates as they were trying to focus on our introductory vocabulary lesson. Juan became mad when I would continue on to the next word, since he hadn’t finished it due to his wandering around the room. He wouldn’t accept the assistance of our Teaching Assistant as she tried to catch him up on the vocabulary.
It was at this time Juan looked at me and said, “I’m going to beat up bad teachers afterschool!” I kept my facial expression neutral as Juan and the rest of the class looked to me for my reaction. Since Juan didn’t get the reaction he wanted, he began walking around the room again and then he said, “I’m going to beat up everyone afterschool!”
So now, Juan had made a threat against not only me, but his fellow classmates as well. Not wanting to see what Juan would say (or possible do next) I called the office and informed them what happened. Security arrived at my room in seconds and promptly removed him from my class. Juan spent the next two and half hours in the office talking to the principal and social worker. They called home and talked to his grandmother who laughed off Juan’s comments, and asked, “Do you really think Juan is going to beat up his teacher?” While I truly don’t think that Juan was going to beat me up after school, he needed to understand that you couldn’t make threats like that at school.
Juan was brought back to my room, and he was mad at me. With some prompting, he did apologize to me, and apologize to the students in the room. He sat down at our reading table, and began to throw the books at the other students. They did a great job of ignoring his bad behaviors and they continued to read.
What Juan did next really shocked not only me, but his classmates as well. Juan said, “I’m going to kill myself.” His classmates all gasped in shock, and looked at me. I once again tried to keep my face neutral as best as I could, and I called Juan over away from the group. I asked Juan “What did you say?” He looked right at me and said, “I don’t know.” I asked him again, and he said, “I don’t know.”
I quickly went to the hallway and asked the security guard to come over. Once I explained the situation, she took him back to the office to talk with the principal and social worker. They decided to have Juan’s grandmother come in to talk about the latest incident. They strongly urged her to take Juan to a nearby hospital that has a pediatric treatment program. When Juan was absent the next day, we all hoped that they took him to seek treatment. We got word that Wednesday that the hospital decided to admit Juan for one to two weeks.
Juan’s been gone for a week now, and I worry about him every day. I am also extremely anxious for his return. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s mad at me when he comes back, but I will gladly be the “bad guy” if it meant that Juan got the help he needed.
Any advice on what I should expect when Juan returns? What can I do to make it a smooth transition for everyone involved?