Thursday, 26 January 2017

Back in the Trenches

[Media prompt] Holly Houston is a post-traumatic stress specialist. She counsels teachers in Chicago public schools [90% Black/Hispanic] and reported, “Of the teachers that I have counselled over the years who have been assaulted, 100 per cent of them have satisfied diagnostic criteria for PTSD.”
Back in the Trenches*

In 2017, after being on medical leave following an incident at J___, where a student sprayed perfume in my eyes while another knocked me cold, I returned to teaching in the new academic year at C___. As soon as I arrived on the first morning I was accosted by a group of black girls wearing pink “pussy hats” who told me, “We are going to fuck you up, you white bitch.” Through the school gate I could see gangs of Blacks and Hispanics strutting in the yard, the sound of their cursing and taunts growing louder and louder. From behind me on the right a salvo of four or five cans of soda filled with urine flew over my head. The steps leading to the entrance of the school building were only about thirty yards away. Someone had lit some firecracker rockets and they went hissing away towards the east; I could see the red flashes when they hit the classroom windows on the upper floors. The playground was showing more and more signs of dilapidation as I approached the main door. A soda bottle filled with sand came over, whoo-whoo-whoo, crashing with a hollow thud into the wall. At the same time, someone pushed me from behind and I fell forward onto my face, and sand spayed over me from the bottle with small pieces of plastic flittering down all around. Lurid catcalls from all quarters assailed my ears, and another bottle crunched against the wall, showering me with its contents. The ground was wet and slippery. A firecracker rocket hissed into a clump of grass close by, sputtering wildly before exploding.

I finally made it to the teachers’ lounge. The time between now and my first class was the easiest part of the day. My colleagues who were not napping sat in small groups talking about student threats and assaults. “You’re the one that got clocked at J___, aren’t you?” said an older man who had looked up from his newspaper when I entered. Several of the others stopped their conversations to see what I would say. “Yes, I was,” I said, “so if you need the time just ask.” This was considered a witty answer, and I received no trouble from my colleagues from then on. 

(* With apologies to Robert Graves.)

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