Today started off on a rare positive note. I got mad props from The Maestro, a jazz drummer who's played a few gigs with Miles Davis and other greats in Baltimore when Pennsylvania Avenue was a mecca of sorts for hep cats. He took his own trio around Europe for several years. He is the drum teacher at The March, and he worked in my classroom for a couple days during the MSA testing. We'd chatted several times before because he's seen my jazz posters and he's always poking his head in when I'm playing Coltrane or Ellington or Sun Ra for the kids and giving me a thumbs up.
Well anyway he stopped me this morning in the office and said "Mr. Godfrey...excuse me...Brother Godfrey" (and here he took my hand in his). "I want to thank you for enlightening me in your class. Your rapport with the children is really remarkable, and I can see your love and commitment. Thank you." I was speechless. The Maestro is one of the few teachers in the building who can silence a roomful of thugs with an arched eyebrow, and he made my week with his kind words.
Of course everything after that was fights and cussing and throwing things and suspension paperwork and phone calls home. I even called my brother-in-law by mistake and started telling him about a student's misbehavior because his first name was the same as her father's last name and I thought I'd dialed her house. He played me for a fool and I didn't realize what was going on until he started cracking jokes and then I recognized his voice. The day was so hectic that I completely forgot the Maestro's suggestion that I had an admirable "rapport" with the kids.
I also had to restrain Gregorious who was involved in a play-fight with a girl which rapidly got serious. I stepped between them and they both continued throwing punches, hitting me in the neck and head. After a couple of his ham-fisted blows hit the back of my head I blew my top and the next thing I knew I had his right arm up between his shoulder blades and his face was pressed in my left armpit. "You going to stop now? Are you finished?" I was shouting in his ear, and I felt terrible because I really wasn't thinking at that point, I was just reacting out of anger. I hate to lose control with a child, but this kid is bigger than I am and in a roomful of other young kids eager to take a poke at adults I felt like I had to send a message. I sent him to the nurse to make sure he was alright because I had him twisted up pretty good, and I documented everything, and both he and the girl are getting suspended. I'm not pleased about it, because these are two of my favorite kids, warts and all.