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Proper Grievance

26 Nov

A student from our school passed away this morning due to brain cancer. I didn’t know her personally, only that she was a cheerleader in Leadership, with an eclectic group of friends. She had already thrice defeated the cancer in her lifetime but this summer she was diagnosed with a brain tumor deemed inoperable.  It had only been a matter of time after that.

About a month ago, the admin, with the permission of the parents, called a faculty meeting and let everyone know. We were given time to  ask questions, find out who else knew her, discuss how students might react, know where to send grieving students to and to prepare ourselves for the grief as well.

As I sat there in that meeting though, I felt… conflicted. Part of me just couldn’t understand why they were letting everyone know, why they were making such a big deal out of it. The other part of me wondered, what the hell is wrong with me?! 

Proper GrievanceI was desensitized is what it was. The school that I was at down in LA had over 4,000 students, and we lost at least one or two students per year. In the six years that I worked there, I personally knew two that died, one in a car accident and another in a shooting. I would hear about it over the PA system, “If you want to give to the ‘Garcia family fund,’ there will be  a student walking around to all the classes.” That’s how I would find out. Just like that.

The first student I had lost was actually in my first year of teaching. In the sea of Garcias in a 97% Latino school, he was that Garcia in that announcement that year, and I didn’t find out it was him until almost a year later. I was so sad but didn’t know anyone else who knew him to talk to. He was a student from my very first Twilight class who had gotten away with doing nothing in class his whole life by learning how to stay quiet. He once got mad at me for bothering him when he “wasn’t doing anything”. That was exactly my point. By the end of the year though, I remember he yelled out, “Hey, I think I’m getting it!” and actually started doing his work.

He still failed the class =/, but I remember being so proud of him and wanting to encourage him to keep at it. I didn’t get a chance to tell him though because I was so busy being a Nazi-teacher. I told myself I would tell him when I got back from vacation… Needless to say, lesson learned.

Anyways, the sad part is that I actually do understand the need to desensitize. I don’t know that anyone can grieve over so many losses and still remain healthy. Today though, having stepped away from that school for several years now, not only am I  saddened by the loss of this a student I did not know, but also for that school that had to harden itself to such losses.

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