Not in That Illusion

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Home and neighborhood environments like those for Dick, Jane, Sally, Mother, Father, their dog Spot, and their kitten Puff did not exist in every home during their era nor did they in the early 2000s. The Dick and Jane stories with idealistic settings for the characters were used to teach reading from the early 1930s through to the 1970s. I remember them well, but also remember my home was not like theirs. One could also consider the how life looked in Leave It to Beaver episodes.

I was a frequent administrative substitute at an elementary school with a measurable transient population of multiple ethnicities. And I often used what I had learned after suspending the homeless boy at a different school (“Suspend the Homeless” Jan 9, 2021).

In a scenario similar to my previous post, I had to suspend two students for fighting. Follow-up on the previous incident led to my getting full access to computer posted student records, so I knew their family circumstances. Well, so it seemed.

The least frequent offender lived with a foster family and was picked up within minutes of my call. A little later, the non-custodial father came to pick him up, but I wasn’t authorized to tell him where the boy went. He seemed to understand my following the rules. Then the mother, also non-custodial, called, for information about the boy’s whereabouts. She was not so understanding or civil in her remarks. I have no idea how the non-custodials found out.

After several tries, I was able to contact the more frequent offender’s mother. Her English was broken. She put the boy’s teenage sister on the phone to talk with me. I could hear both sides of the conversation as the sister explained the situation to their mother. Then the sister excused herself saying, “Someone is at the door.”

I heard a male voice in the background, but not what was being said. Then there was a shout, “One ‘ethnic’ going out the back window!” Crashing and rustling sounds followed the shout.

Sister came back on the phone, “Sorry lotsa stuff happening. We’ll come and get him.”

A shabbily dressed woman and trendily dressed teen came into the school about an hour later. She and the woman talked to the secretary. The woman spoke in language and the girl used educated vocabulary in flawlessly pronounced English as I came out of the principal’s office space. Sister apologized and explained they had to walk because her stepfather took the car.

I’m sure she didn’t know I’d heard what was going on in the background when she had put her phone down to answer their door. I said nothing about it. Mother signed the student sign-out sheet with instructions from Sister.

I gave them the suspension documents and explained when the boy could return to school. They left, but as I was returning to the office, I heard Sister say to the secretary, “Oh, we’ll be moving, so Mother needs to sign him out of school, and she’ll have his new school send for his transcripts.”

A few days later there was a daytime criminal incident in the suspended boy’s neighborhood. Local TV was there after the fact and the reporter interviewed the suspended boy who allegedly saw everything.

The boys certainly didn’t live in a Dick and Jane or Beaver Cleaver illusional household and neighborhood.


Suspend the Homeless

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Some things are not what they seem to be or should be.
Substitute administrators don’t always have the full story about students with whom they must deal. I substituted as a principal or vice principal at several elementary schools with a majority of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches. I learned that knowing a student is in the program is a good indicator for me to look for possible other problems before I acted on the obvious one.

Lunch supervision was generally on the agenda for substitute administrators because they have no continuing managerial duties; they have no authority to make operational or policy decisions. Lunch duty for the most part was watching and reminding students of applicable behavior when they were on the edge of inappropriateness. However physical disputes sometimes broke out without preceding oral outbursts.

I didn’t see the fight start, nor did I hear inappropriate vocabulary until after first blows were struck. A pair of equal size fifth graders were wailing away, sometimes in the air and sometimes on target. By the time I got to them through the wanting to see a fight lunchroom crowd, they were being separated by two para educators, but still wailing away in the air and cursing.

Neither seemed to have any fear of me but stopped shouting and struggling as the two women pulled them farther apart. At my request, the ladies escorted them to the office area.

Witnesses were as hard to find as ice cubes in roaring fire. Students were back at their tables as if the pizza of the day was catered to individual orders.

I interviewed them separately and both had the same basic story – he started it for no reason. Protocol said I should suspend both boys for fighting because they had priors. One had two priors for fighting and the other had just one. Neither would give a reason nor change from, “He started it.”

Progression procedure allowed me to make a third offense suspension of two weeks and the other for one week. But I had an option of one week for the third timer and three days for the second timer. That’s what I did.

I was on the phone with second timer’s parent when third timer’s mother came in to pick him up. She and he were gone before I could excuse myself from the call. A little later, while ensuring the boy had been logged out of school, I overheard two office workers. One said, “I could die for the boots his mother was wearing.”

“Me too,” the other said. “And she dresses like…”

I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation.
I was at the same school when the mother of third timer signed him in after his week away. Again, she was out of the office before I could speak with her. The school secretary who had been busy on his suspension day took me to the side saying, “Wish I’d caught you last week. Before Ms. Xx, (the principal) went on family leave, she’d decided third timer would be on inhouse suspension if another fight occurred. It was in her sub instructions, but you were in for the VP. I couldn’t get an override on your decision from her long-term sub, and even if I did, I couldn’t get a call to his mother. She told me this morning her cell phone was out of minutes until the end of the month.”

I asked, “No home phone?” When this happened nearly everyone had a home phone, and a few had a cell. I continued, “She appeared by her clothing to be well enough off.” I looked toward the two assistants at their desks and said to the secretary, “They said something about her boots last week.”

”The boots are knock-offs. She’s the cleanest homeless person I’ve ever dealt with. They live in a 1960s something Suburban. Don’t feel bad, you had no way of knowing.”

That didn’t help very much how I felt, but I decided to expand my checklist before I suspended another student.



School Skippers

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Junior high school skipping in most non-urban towns is rare, but not unusual1observation/judgment not verified by statical data.
Disclaimer: Much or even most of the following is second-hand, so I cannot testify in court to parts unobserved by me.

The teachers’ union was on strike and the school administration declared that student attendance was optional. It was a strong union town, so most parents did not send their kids.

Brothers Darryl and Darryl whose names I’ll take from the Newhart TV show2 “Hi, I’m Larry. This is my brother, Darryl and my other brother, Darryl.” were twins in grade level, but nearly a year apart in age.3Yes, this sounds a little like the girls in “Of Slugs V” but… The boys were walkers and usually came to school on a path from the neighborhood through the trees mentioned in my post about Skifoot.

Neither Darryl the Older nor Darryl the Younger were destined to be Rhodes Scholars, but neither were they in danger of repeating a grade. Their standardized tests showed ability a few points above their class subject grades, but neither liked school which influenced their scholastic levels.

Well, back to the skipping incident.

The boys arrived at last bell and went to the gym for a shoot around supervised by a substitute teacher. The jocks and want-to-be jocks dominated ball possession, so Darryl and Darryl were permitted to watch one of the movies being shown in classrooms supervised by other substitutes.

With only about 100 of the school’s 600 students present, lunch was served early. Darryl the Older shared a plan with his brother, but neither had ever missed lunch, so they’d make their move during transition back to one of the classrooms.

I was on the picket line on public property with a full view of the woods. Older and Younger stepped out the back door and looked both ways. I wasn’t sure until later if they saw me or not. They sprinted to the path they usually took coming to school. But instead of going out of sight on the trail, they turned and moved tree to tree like our Revolutionary War militia men avoiding the British4They did see me but thought I was too far away to recognize them..

Where the woods ended a little over 200 yards from the school building, they broke into a full sprint and disappeared behind a convenience store. A minute or so later, their heads appeared at the corner of the building. Their posture was, ‘look casual’ as they came around the corner and entered the store.

All of that was Friday, the strike was settled over the weekend, and schools were in full operation on Monday. Just after school, the Darryls approached the vice principal at the bus line. Older asked if their parents had been called about their being suspended. After they volunteered a detailed confession, VP didn’t tell them school had been optional on Friday. He said something like, “I’ll excuse it this time, “but never again.”

I have no idea if they skipped again.




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Just saying.
My seventh-grade team lost only one game that season.
Being qualified to coach football in the junior high school wasn’t difficult in those days.

Usually, coaches were also the PE teachers and for whatever reason history teachers. I was neither but coached a season of seventh grade football. The previous spring, I was an assistant track coach. My qualifications for coaching: I ran track and played football in high school.

I was approached to coach the team and could earn $750 for the season. Since my regular contract paid $7,500, it was a true bonus. That’s right – we made four digits in those days, but our house cost only $17,500.

Most of the players ended up on the junior high varsity as eighth graders or freshman, and all but a few eventually played high school ball. In those days junior high was 7-8-9 and high school was 10-11-12.

Some of the post season discussions were about the other junior high in town wining only one game that season. Players on that team had the same ensuing success as those on my team at the high school that drew from both junior high schools.


There is more to the story. The only game we had was against that other junior high school.



Happy New Year 2021

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What a year that was.

You know to which I refer, so I mention no numbers. In that light, it’s over, so


I took Christmas Vacation off for no blogging. But you knew that.

Isn’t it still disturbing when someone knows what you know and tells you anyway? As I said before, feel free to fill in the snark line. Unless it’s generally offensive, I’ll probably approve it. And you can always make a confidential note on my contact page.

I read an article about the pressures put on by the New Year’s resolutions. Well, it was more about the pressures of the guilt after not keeping the ones that seemed the most important at the time.

Therefore, I’m not making resolutions! And I mean it!

However I do have some liketas. First, I’d liketa take credit for coining the word liketa which seems to imply I’d like to. I’m not going to bore you with my Liketa List because at the end of the year, whatever I do may or may not have been on the list.
Now it’s time to start on the list.
That could be a waste of time.


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