She sits across me in my tiny office, her slender frame settled in on the flimsy green chair. Around her back, swaddled in cloth, rests a tiny baby, quiet. Her dark hair is pulled back, and her eyes are thick with eyeliner that I’ve noticed most Muslims here wear.
Beside her on the floor rests a little boy, one of my students. He has most recently taken a black crayon and scribbled across the floor, quite proudly I might add, as he awaited his mother’s arrival. He was sent to my office as the last straw, the final result in a string of time outs and shouting and reprimands of “Say you’re sorry!” He is a boy who leaves us exhausted every day, tired of not seeing any change in his behaviour. So the warning was made to him, and after it was repeatedly broken, a phone home was placed with an explanation of his suspension.
And so here I find myself, across the desk from his mom, who only later I would find out took that position after his biological mom left. Her eyes are sad, and I feel my heart break and voice waver as I explain to her his behaviour. I look to Rita, our teaching assistant, to explain what my English cannot, and afterwards his mom turns back to me, that familiar defeat in her eyes.
I try to find words to convey that he’s not a lost cause, even though the defeat in her eyes surely has convinced her of that. I think of the moments where he hugs me at the end of the day, the rare occurences where he jumps in his seat anxious to offer an answer to a question I’ve posed. “He has so much potential!” I offer feebly. “I know inside of him there’s a beautiful boy that’s waiting to emerge.”
She nods as she smiles and thanks me, reaching down for her son’s hand. And my heart breaks as I watch them walk away, wishing I could have done more, wishing that a warning had sunk into his heart or a time out had made a simple impression on his behaviour. My heart hurt as I wished I hadn’t seen her despair and defeat in her eyes; wishing, wishing, wishing.
I take a deep breath. Sometimes it sucks to be the bad guy.