Monday, July 16, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Neglect

Neglect: to be remiss in the care or treatment of.  Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.

Shonto Boarding School:  Rural, Remote Census-defined rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and is also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster.

My first class was with  fourth graders.  Normally, nine year olds are wonderful human beings to teach:  not yet adults, they are capable, open, friendly, and curious, and, of course, love anything to do with art.   In this case, the minute I walked into the classroom I knew things were wrong.  Children were racing around the room, screaming.  Desks were overturned, and one boy stood on top of a small table throwing erasers at the other kids as they tore by.  His aim was good; a girl stood and cried loudly, chalk dust covering her face. There seemed to be no one in charge.  At first the kids didn't see me, then, as my presence became known, they began to shift their attention, slowing down a little.  It was unsettling.  I thought of Lord of the Flies and wondered just how much worse it could get. I asked one of the children where their teacher was.  The room became completely silent and I could hear a pounding coming from behind a closed door in the room.  I went to open it and a short, older, very overweight woman with  dry, broken, gray  hair shot out of out of a small closet, "Okay you kids. I know who did this.  Bryson you get over here.  I'm going to paddle your butt 'till it bleeds and I mean it!" The kids watched her for a few minutes, then took off again-- running, screaming, shouting.  The woman grabbed the arm of one of the boys that ran by her but he easily shook her off and continued to run. I thought I should intervene;
"Mrs. Kaufman, I'm Holly Roberts and I'm here to teach art for the week".
She turned to me, and replied;
 "You can have the little devils."
With that, she left the room, handing over 36 nine year old Navajo students to me.  These same 36 nine year old students would go every night, not home to their mothers and fathers, but to a dorm, and these same students would spend five days a week, seven hours a day for the rest of the school term with Mrs. Kaufman guiding  them through their fourth grade year.

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