Wednesday, April 21, 2004

A Life Cut Short

Walking down the corridor this morning, a colleague waved me over toward the door to his classroom.

"Hey MB," he called in a loud whisper. " Did you have Rodney Roberts in class a few years back?"
My eyes widened. " That was our Rodney Roberts?"
"Yeah." he answered "Tall, skinny, kid with braids...Security guards always kept an eye on him...Suspected he was selling...Couldn't prove anything."

Rodney was a likeable enough kid, although he was never one to get close to a teacher. Not this teacher anyway. Always had friends, never gave me an attitude, did his assignments and turned them in, graduated on time. Considering 60% of Cleveland students never graduate from high school, he was doing better than his peers.

Today's Plain Dealer reported that Rodney was in jail Tuesday. He was arrested after turning himself in for the shooting death of 16 year old Lorenzo Hunter. Lorenzo was a star football player on the state championship Benedictine Bengals football team.
I heard about Lorenzo's murder from my oldest son, a Benedictine graduate, this past weekend. The Benedictine community was, of course, shocked. Max Hayes, on the other hand...Not so much. Curious, yes, but not shocked.

Many of my students, or their families, have been the victims of crime.
It seems, just as often, I hear that someone in our school is the perpetrator of a crime. We read about our students and former students with an uneasy regularity; armed robbery, rape, police chases, assaults, domestic violence, murder.

Crime in the inner-city is like a thread that weaves in out of our lives with such a regularity that it becomes a part of the pattern. Unfortunately, it is a pattern that I am growing used to. I am not so jaded that I have lost heart. I am just no longer surprised.

If I had to identify the silver lining on this particular dark cloud, it would be the appreciation that I feel for the good things in life. The preponderance of negativity really makes me take notice of the positive stuff around me. The constant contrast helps me to focus on savoring the goodness that I see, and inspires me to nurture it.

It makes me want to be a better teacher.

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