The other day I was subbing for a Biology class for two consecutive days at Uplift High School in Chicago. For the first two periods I had as special education instructor helping me. He made a comment that the goldfish in the room was a pretty hardy speciman as he had survived most of the school year. I had subbed for this teacher before, and I had to protect him as a few students wanted to go over and mess with the fish.
On the second day, the special education teacher left the room and I was busy helping a few students with the assignment for the day. A few students wandered over to the fish tank and started screwing with the goldfish. I tried to get them away from the fish, but I was distracted by the students that were looking for help. A few minutes later the students had left and the fish was floating at the top of the aquarium.
I sarcastically congratulated the students on the murder of the goldfish. One of the students started doing a little dance and yelled "yes, no more goldfish." Wow, I thought, here is someone with no regard for life. I know that a goldfish is very low on the ecological scale, but I think it is pretty much proven that young people that torment animals are the ones you really have to be wary of. I have no doubt that these students have as little regard for human life as they do for the lives of goldfishes. I just hope to not meet these turkeys in a dark alley or on a deserted train platform in a few years when they are adults and are even more hardened and uncaring. If I do, I will run.
One thing I will never forget is there was this one girl in the class that is an absolute sweetheart. Every time I sub for her she comes into the class and smiles and says "hello, Mr. Nelson." Most of the students regard me with almost complete indifference. When the goldfish murderer was doing his little victory dance she gave me a look of such disgust that I will never forget. I am not sure what this look implied, but I think it was one of contempt and embarrassment toward her fellow classmates.
It reminds me that there are certain students that we just cannot help. They are already too damaged from their personal life for us to make a difference. Our job as educators is to protect the sweethearts and make sure they can circumnavigate the system, so that they lose the look of disgust and can continue to smile and say hello to Mr. Nelson.