Saturday, February 2, 2013


I Failed My Student

I would like to introduce to you the latest blogger to join my team. She will be recognized and known as: Flowering Spring Tree. She is a divorced, single mother from Georgia who is also a former teacher.  Originally, she is from New York State, where she lived the first 30 years of her life.  She appreciates the opportunity to be a guest blogger on this site, and hopes to learn and contribute more toward both bullying and gang prevention. 

Please help me welcome her by leaving a comment and/or feedback.


By: Flowering Spring Tree

In my teaching experience around Atlanta, Georgia, I have known, taught, and interacted with students in my classes who were self-proclaimed gang members.  The two most common gangs in which African-American male middle school students were involved in were the Crips and Bloods.  I remember one of my sixth grade boys who was a member of the Crips.  I prayed for this boy and tried to help provide him with a supportive, mentoring network of people who cared about him.  I'm glad he was in my class because, while most people did not care about him, I did and the school police officer did, too.  

The boy, whom I will call Kareb (not his real name), was a troubled kid, and it was through no fault of his own.  His mother and stepfather were substance abusers, being addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Kareb's biological father was in prison.  No one cared about this poor child.  His behavior was a problem in school; he acted out alot.  He was also repeating sixth grade for the second time since he had failed all of his subjects the previous year.  And, he was absent from school alot.  

Any sensitive person could see that Kareb was struggling with issues that no child or young boy should.  He was small for his age, and I sometimes thought that he may be hungry.  I wondered what kind of food he ate when he was not at school.  Indeed, I understood from the school police officer one day when I did not see Kareb at school that he had robbed some food from a convenience store and ended up in jail.  

Social services was involved with Kareb's family, though I just don't believe they were doing enough to help him.  I believe he should have been removed from the home in an effort to better help and protect him.  But, he was maintained in his own home.  Where he did not receive the love and care of his family, Kareb sought it on the street.  That, among other reasons, is why he became involved in a gang.  Kareb found what he believed was the brotherhood and support that he needed, however the school police officer and I tried to teach him that a gang was not interested in caring for him.  The gang was only interested in their own self-interests.  No matter what we told Kareb, he already believed that the gang was his family, that they really cared for him.

At the school where I taught, there was a police-sponsored program that was taught in some classes by the school police officer.  This program was a kind of scripted role-play among the students and the police officer to try to help the kids see the realities of gangs and how dangerous they are.  During and after these scripted role-play activities, the opportunity was taken by me and the school police officer to do our best to convince Kareb of the dangers of and lies about gangs.  We weren't successful.

The dynamics of Kareb's life were just too much for him to leave the gang or believe that the gang did not care about him.  He truly believed that the gang members cared about him.  It was a brotherhood, a network, almost a kind of support group for him, even though it was involved in dangerous activities and crimes.  To Kareb, the gang was better than his own family.  His own family did not care about him; the system did not care about him.  A couple of people who did care about him could do nothing else but talk to him, but it was already too late.  Society had let Kareb fall through the cracks.

What I learned about gangs from the school police officer at my school is that most gang members are dead before their 21st birthday.  In my mind, that is an age when most people are just beginning to live their lives.  At that age, many people are graduating from college, going out into the workforce, and/or beginning their families.  That is a wonderful time in people's lives, and should not be a time to die.  

After I did not see Kareb in school for a week or two, I asked the school police officer if he knew anything about him.  He told me that Kareb had been arrested for stealing something, and was in jail.  Since this was one of several other times that Kareb was arrested, this time he was to be in juvenile detention for at least six months.  I nearly started to cry.  I was so angry at society, at his family, at all the people who didn't care and let Kareb fall through the cracks.  I still sometimes think about Kareb and pray for him, and wonder if my prayers are in vain.  I wonder if he is still in the gang.  I wonder if he is still alive.  I pray that other children are rescued from situations such as those that Kareb experienced.  I wish I could have done more for him.

Your's Truly,
Flowering Spring Tree

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