Bell rings and children come in with news to share.
“Teacher, we learned a new jump rope tune.”
Cinderella dressed in yella
Went upstairs to kiss a fella
Made a mistake kissed a snake
How many doctors will it take? 2,4,6,8 —
“Teacher, Joe says I’ve got a girlfriend and I’m gonna punch him if he says it again.”
“Hey, teacher, my grandma is staying with us this week.”
“I forgot my homework.”
I call out, “Good morning, everyone. Now please stop the talk and take your seats.”
As we settle down, the door opens one more time and in walks a little girl, late again and alone. She was a plain child, rather nondescript, straight stringy hair – seldom clean. Just a so-so student, but quiet, and obedient. She often seemed sleepy, tired and lethargic “Oh,” I make a mental note, “I must make time to talk to her. Maybe I can do it at lunch time.” I couldn’t; a parent came. Little girl talk had to wait.
I was disturbed by her odor. She didn’t smell like a little girl should smell. She smelled old and unsanitary. “I really must give her some special attention. But I don’t have time today – nor tomorrow.”
Another morning, she came to school with faded worn clothes, made bulky because of being put on over pink flannel pajamas. Again, I thought, “I must do something about that child. I’ll try after school.” But her dad picked her up. I had missed again. I asked the dad if she could stay a little late tomorrow. She gave me a slight smile, quickly squelched when her dad grouched, “Guess so. But she better not be in no trouble.” I wave to her as I say, “See you tomorrow.”
On the morrow, however, I learned that that fourth grade girl was pregnant.
The father called the school. Making all kinds of noises about some fifth grade boy impregnating his daughter on the school grounds. The principal was angrier than the father. He knew that had not happened. He believed that the father of that child was also the father of her child. The principal called Social Services.
I felt relief at knowing someone else was going to help her.
Next morning, same routine:
The girls enter:
I like coffee, I like tea
I like boys and boys like me.
Yes, no, maybe so – 1,2,3
There was the daily acknowledgement of forgotten homework.
And the cheerful report that grandma was still here.
Joe is still being threatened.
The one child announces: Our neighbors moved last night.
Another says: Yeah, that girl that was in our class. The one who was always late.
The door slowly opens again. The principal beckons me out, asks for “little girl” because Social Services wanted to talk to her. I regretfully informed him that she was not there. What happened? I’m not sure. I never saw the girl again – never had another chance for that talk with her. It was too late!
Oh, little girl, I hardly knew you. Perhaps I could have helped you. I could have told you that it was not your shame, you were not to blame. Perhaps I could at least remember your name.