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A Young Boy/Man's Rage, and A Knife He Wanted to Be a Gun - Part I A Young Boy/Man's Rage, and A Knife He Wanted to Be a Gun - Part I
by Leah Sellers
2012-12-21 10:13:20
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This is a True Story.  I was the Teacher whose students and assistants were subjected to one Raging Young Man's Vision of Fiery, Murderous Rage, Fame and Glory.

The young eighth grader who envisioned and acted out his nightmare of violent mayhem on his classroom in a school district just outside of Austin, Texas (home to the same governor Rick Perry, who once ran for president of the United States of America, and also questionably claims that Teachers should have guns concealed in their classrooms in order to protect themselves and their students), first tried to locate his Grandfather's Guns before eventually stealing a Friend's Knife to carry out his planned murderous horror-scape and misguided scape-goating.

If he had gotten his hands upon his Grandfather's Guns the day would have wound up quite differently for many people.

America's (and the World's) poisonous Love Affair with Violence is Ethical/Cultural/Legal/Political in nature, and will have to be dealt with in Equal Legal/Political and Cultural Measures and Ethical Teaching for a Positive Effective/Affective Balance and Transformation to be achieved and maintained.

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"He's gotta knife!"
 
Terrorism comes in all Shapes, all Sizes, all Places, all Hearts, Minds and Souls of Darkness.

 
Every Terrorist - every Gang Member, in Reality, eventually thrives on the Energies of Self and Other nihilism. Seeks Control and Power through shoving Others down (psychologically and physically) or out of the Way. Through angry, careless, manipulative Violence and Chaos, and ultimately annihilation. Every Terrorist - every Gang Member has a Cause - a Reason (or Reasons) for violent grievance against the World - against The Others (whoever They may be).
 
In my Experience, Terrorists Are Not Born. The Innocent Babes - the Innocent Hearts, Minds and Souls who Become Terrorists are Made. Terrorists are the Creations of All Societies.
 
"He's gotta knife! He's coming into your room!"
 
T., the Homemade Terrorist, was steam-rolling our direction. All 6 foot, 1 inch and 390 pounds of him. A raging 8th grader with a Grudge. A Bone of Contention to pick and clean. T. the Marauder. The Charging, short-sighted, Rhino.
 
In Speaking Circle, three weeks earlier, T. had brought up the subject of Terrorism.
 
"Yeah, Miss, you take Osama bin Laudin and those guys plowin' those planes into the World Trade Buildings. He's stupid! He didn't do it right?
 
"What do you mean when you say he didn't do it right, T."
 
T. smiled sideways, icy blue eyes full of arrogant mischief. "If he was really as smart as everyone says he is, he'd have all of his homeboys doin' the dirty work - blowin' things up - killin' people while he stayed Invisible - behind the scenes. Let all the flunkies workin' for him take all of the heat, while he hides underground in all of his caves or wherever it is that he's hidin' now. Safe. That way, he can keep on schemin', givin' orders, and gettin' the job done. Let everyone else take the blame. Keep yourself clean - no one knowin' that you're the Master Mind - the Head Honcho. Great Bosses can murder anyone they want to - anytime, anywhere - and keep their hands clean. You use men who are loyal to you - and only you - to do all of the dirty work."
 
"The only way Osama was smart was using his religion to get his men to do anything he wanted them to - for him. Grinning maliciously, he had pointed his beefy forefinger skyward saying, "That way God gets what's His and Osama gets what he wants. Anyway, that's what I'd do. I'd play it smart. I'd lay low. I'd fly below the radar."
 
The Other boys in the Speaking Circle were watching T. intently - uneasily. A mixture of confusion, fear and anger was emanating from their troubled eyes and body language. The boys who normally shifted restlessly around in their chairs were perfectly still and visa-versa.
 
There was a Secret here - a dangerous Mystery. I could Feel it in my Bones - in my Instinctual Gut. But I could not put my Intellectual Finger on it. I needed more Information - more Proof. But Proof of what? Why were all of the boys reacting to T. - reacting to what he was saying so poignantly?
 
Now, a month later, the Dangerous Mystery was reaching out to grab all of us by the throat. Things within the Classroom were unraveling fast. T. had changed his strategy. He was definitely flying above the radar and exploding in our direction.
 
There was no Time to Think. I had to Act.
 
I jumped up and out of my chair. Looking quickly at Ms. P., my assistant, I quietly said, "Get the boys out of here. Go to the office. Call the police." I turned and ran toward the doorway of our Art and Science room, determined to hold T. back - to try and turn the unfolding events around.
 
The second assistant I had left in the Art and Science room with T. while he worked on one of his Research papers yelled out again, "He's gotta knife! He's coming!"
 
T. had refused to take his history test that morning. It was his only 'out' class.
 
His only class outside of the Self Contained, Behavioral Program I was in charge of. A Behavioral Program created for Emotionally Disturbed/Learning Disabled students, into which I had infused a hands-on/minds-on Fine Arts Based Program. Many of my students, had their 'disturbances and disabilities' not been so challenging and disruptive, would have been at the top of their classes or participating in Advanced Placement or Gifted and Talented classrooms.
 
If we were Geographically studying China, I introduced my students to Chinese literature, myths, legends and poetry. Every Story, Myth, Legend or Poem my students wrote about, analyzed or discussed within our Speaking Circle taught about Universal Truths: Honor, Honesty, Trustworthiness, Loyalty, Courtesy, Hospitality, Perseverance, Diligence, Responsibility, Personal and Social Conscience, Duty, Courage, Wisdom, Patience, Grace, Charity, Fairness, Compassion..etc. We studied, and wrote research papers concerning Chinese History, Geography, Art and Sociology. My students studied and created models and original student-conceptualized duplications of Chinese Architecture and Art in student carved wood and plaster modalities. We Studied the Chinese alphabet and glyphs and the students wrote their own original poetry in English and then translated and painted those same poems using the beautifully symbolic Chinese glyphs. We learned to make and use the Chinese abacus in order to compute our Math equations. We studied, and wrote research papers concerning, the Human Body's Anatomy and anatomical Meridians, the documented usages of Acupuncture and Botanical and Chemical compositions of the Herbal Remedies used for specific ailments during Science. We then compared and contrasted those findings with more modern western Medical findings and Remedies. My students were introduced daily to Chinese Music and Instruments from various historical periods. We made Chinese box kites and flew them during Physical Education. The students selected their favorite Chinese foods and beverages and learned to prepare and cook them for our Chinese Game and Kite Flying Lantern Festival at the end of the unit on China, before moving onto our next Country and unit of analysis and study.
 
My goal was to immerse my students in each culture's, each global nation's Greatness, Wisdom, Beauty and Diversity. To analyze, compare and contrast the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How's of every culture politically, philosophically, artistically and sociologically. They soon learned that we are all really much more alike than we are different. That All Nations, All Cultures share many of the same Universal Truths of Behavior and Belief. Behaviors and Beliefs, which when Applied and Adhered to, proved to be the Glue of Society. Behaviors and Beliefs which kept the Howling Winds of Societal and Individual Chaos at Bay.
 
A Hungry, Howling Wind each of my students was already familiar with, due to the External environments they were born into or, due to circumstance, were forced to live within (broken homes, foster homes, orphanages, etc.); or the chemical and physiological environments they carried Internally which adversely affected/effected their behaviors.
 
All of my students were labeled as Emotionally Disturbed and Learning Disabled. They all had a past filled with a differing variety of Howling Wind Behaviors: physical and verbal abuse and assault, truancy, theft, jail time, destruction of property, drug use, sexual abuse, academic failures, breaking and entering, etc.
 
My job - my Calling - was to help them Mend their Broken Wings - their Broken Hearts, Minds and Souls - and Fly - while igniting (or re-igniting) their Interest in the Discovery and Exploration of their academic subjects.
 
I struggled every day to keep my students Active and Engaged mentally, emotionally and physically. Everything we did was aimed toward guiding my students to their Higher Selves.
 
 
 
"He's gotta Knife! He's coming into your room!"
 
I had disagreed with T.'s grandparents (his guardians), and the school psychologist, about his not being ready for an 'out' class yet. But I had been overruled.
 
I had warned them that he was still being physically abusive to the other boys. Especially, C., one of my sixth graders. That T. found every excuse under the sun to curse at and physically accost C., on a daily basis.
 
From the beginning of school, T. had been after C., a new arrival into our classroom.
 
In trying to understand T.'s animosity toward the young boy, I took him aside one afternoon and asked him why he found C. so annoying.
 
"I hate that punk. He's just like my little brother."
 
The little brother that T. had confessed to me at the beginning of the school year that he had tried to kill over summer vacation. He told me that his mother's interference had kept T. from strangling his little brother to death - from breaking his 'punk-a_ _ neck'.
 
During the summer, T.'s father had been released from prison. His father was a drug dealer and gang leader. His father had returned to live with a relative, who was also suspected of gang and drug activities, in a small town not far from T.'s present home with his grandparents.
 
When T.'s father was sentenced to prison for a couple of years, T.'s mother, an addicted drug user, had moved into her parents home to 'straighten her life out and get help raisin' her boys'.
 
T.'s grandparents were warm and compassionate people. They were 'well off' financially and highly educated. They were heartsick over their daughter's decisions and behaviors, but were determined to help salvage the lives of their two grandchildren.
 
T.'s grandparents donated needed materials to the classroom, attended all of our Holiday Gatherings, and helped out whenever possible with the Equine Therapy and Ranch Work Program my students participated in every Friday, and on occasional weekends.
 
T. loved going out to the Ranch to spend time with the Horses and Ranch staff members. One day, while I was helping T. groom one of his favorite horses, he surprised me. He slipped his long, thick arms around his horse's neck and stood hugging it with tears in his eyes.
 
"You understand me don't ya Boy, T.," whispered into the horse's neck. "No matter what happens, you're always glad to see me. You're a good Boy, W."
 
 
 
The relationships and skills my students built with the Horses, and working out at the Ranch, had brought about some extraordinary results with many of my students.
 
T. had made tremendous progress within my program during his 7th grade year. All of the techniques he had learned to help him control and process through and beyond his destructive temper tantrums and abusive rages that year had proven very effective. He had even begun to take a positive and protective leadership role with the other boys, and was excited about handing in good quality classroom work. Particularly in the areas of Science and History. T.'s grandparents and I really felt as though T. would probably be able to participate in a few 'out' classes the following year.
 
Then T.'s dad had been released to start a new life in the little town T. and his family had lived in together. T.'s Mother, a recovering drug addict, left the stability and safety of her parents' home, taking the younger brother with her, but leaving T. behind, in order to be with 'Her Man'. Since his father's release from prison, T.'s behaviors had become increasingly belligerent and abusive at home. After the incident, in which T. had tried to hurt his younger brother, the Mother had decided to leave T. with his grandparents. She told T. that he was' too hard to handle' and that he needed to 'stay in that program at the school, because he was doing real good in it'. From that moment on, due to T.'s reported behaviors, I suspect that T. felt betrayed and abandoned. He wanted to be with his father. He wanted to be with his family. He missed the cousins and relatives his father - his family had returned to. He felt chaffed under the saddle of his grandparents and the school's rules and discipline. T. saw his grandparents and the Behavioral Program as the entities holding him back from what he really wanted.
 
As the summer progressed, so did T.'s resentments, jealousies and other frustrations. Once again, he began to tantrum at home. He started to renew his usage of cursing, 'gang slang' and 'lingo'. Tearing up his room and putting his fist through a wall, T. ranted and raved to his grandparents that he was going to 'kill them in their sleep and burn the house down with them in it". That he was 'gonna kill that puny punk-a_ _' brother of his.
 
All of the progress T. had made during his 7th grade year was evaporating.
 
He threatened and complained to his grandparents that he wanted out of 'that d_ _ _ Behavioral Program. That he was ready and wanted to be let 'out' into the regular classes at his Middle School.
 
When the new school year began, T.'s grandparents approached me with the idea of allowing T. into 'out' classes before he earned the right to do so through our Behavioral Program's level system. I explained to the grandparents and the school psychologist that T. was not ready for any 'out' classes. That every day, since the beginning of school, I had to watch him closely, and use continual interventions, to keep him from verbally and physically abusing and attacking one of my new 6th grade boys. The young boy that T. kept telling me reminded him of his little brother.
 
I explained that T. had returned to his old habits of cursing and threatening others with physical harm almost every day. Especially when he wanted to 'get his way 'about something. He was Bullying his classmates again.
 
That when he had not liked how a flag-football play had 'worked out' that he had gone into a full rage, running off of the sports field and out into the teachers parking lot. He then pummelled three of the teachers' cars with his fists before I could catch up to him and intervene. When T. stopped beating on the teachers cars he dropped to his knees and began slamming his fists into the rough tarmac of the parking lot until his knuckles bled. It had taken several minutes for me to get T. to listen to reason and calm himself down. After walking him back to our classroom, I attended to and bandaged his scraped and bruised knuckles. I then allowed him to lay down upon one of the bean bags within our Calming Room - the 'Inner Sanctum' - and he had fallen fast asleep. I had let him nap for thirty minutes before getting him up. We spent a few minutes processing through what had happened, and then T., subdued and contrite had joined the rest of the boys in class. During Speaking Circle he had honestly apologized to his classmates for his behaviors. I sat proudly as each boy within the Speaking Circle forgave him and told him to forget it. All of us were laughing and joking with one another by Speaking Circle's end.
 
However, as wonderful as that experience had been for everyone, it did not change the reality of T.'s emotional instability since his father's return from prison. He needed more time to assimilate and process his tumultuous feelings toward everything in his Life, as it was now. He was not ready for the pressures which would be exerted upon him in the school's mainstream. I told them that I sensed that he would self destruct, and take others down with him, as he had in the past.
 
He had physically attacked students, and one of his teachers, before moving to his grandparents' home.
 
None of my input mattered. The needs and fears of the grandparents and T.'s natural charisma carried the day. The school psychologist entered T. into a trial first period history class.
 
The first few weeks, T. gloated to the other boys in the Behavioral program that, "It was the best!" He really enjoyed being out in the 'normal' class, and away from all of the 'Behavioral Low-Lifes'. That 'he was better now' and ready to be 'free of all of us'.
 
"He's gotta knife! He's comin' into your room!"
 
That morning T. had refused to go to his history class with my assistant, J. He was moody and refused to get up from the comfortable couch I had rummaged up for our Art and Science room for the boys to enjoy while they were reading or playing educational table games during their point-earned ten minute 'reward- break times' in between each course of study.
 
He had not studied for the exam his history teacher was giving the class that morning.
 
While we were discussing the reasons why he should take the test, and what I could do to help him study for the exam. T. suddenly jumped up with his fists clutched. "Shut-up, b_ _ _ _! I told you I'm not taking that g _ _ d _ _ _ test!"
 
Then he ran out of the Art and Science room's door and onto the regular campus. He had never spoken to me that way. I was truly taken aback.
 
I told my assistant, P., to begin our English class by having the other seven boys get out their research materials and papers and begin work on them for the first half of the period.
 
I then picked up the phone and called Officer Thimble, the on-campus policeman. I got his voice-mail. I told him that T. had angrily left the classroom, and asked him to be on the 'look-out' for T.' I also suggested that Officer Thimble keep T. with him in his office for awhile. That perhaps T. could spend the day with Officer Thimble or be taken home to his grandparents for the day. I frankly let Officer Thimble know that I was concerned that T. might physically attack someone. I was particularly concerned that if T. were returned to the Behavioral Room that he might attack the smaller 6th grader, C. I told Officer Thimble that I had 'a bad feeling about T.'s behaviors' that morning, and that it would be better if T. did not return to our classroom for the rest of the day.
 
I then rejoined my students, and two assistants, and began to help with the work on their research papers.
 
Within fifteen minutes, Officer Thimble returned T. to my room. T. was smiling sheepishly. His face was still flushed.
 
"T. has promised me that he won't do anything to harm you women folk or anyone else in your classroom. He and I had a man-to-man talk about how you're supposed to treat women. About how he needs to behave. He's promised me that he'll come back to the room and do his work," Officer Thimble announced confidently.
 
I could not believe what I was hearing. Officer Thimble was completely disregarding my concerns about T. In fact, Officer Thimble was making all of us 'womenfolk' sound silly and ridiculous. Officer Thimble was placing this very angry, very disturbed and possibly dangerous 6 foot, 1 inch, 390 pound young man back into my room, despite my warnings of his possibly hurting another student or one of us so-called 'womenfolk'.
 
After Officer Thimble exited our room with a cocky, 'in-the-know' smile, T. turned to me and said, "I'm not doing any work. I need to rest. I'm gonna lay down on the couch."
 
"T., you need to think about the choice you're making. You'll lose a class-point for every minute that you are off task," I said firmly. "I'll have to call your history teacher some time today to discuss your behavior this morning and set up another time for you to take your history exam."
 
"I don't care. Do what you want. None of it matters to me." T. declared.
 
"Do you want to lose your 'out' class? I asked.
 
"I don't care. I'm layin' down."
 
"I'm staying in here with T., Miss," G. chimed in.
 
"G., I need you next door with me. We're getting ready to begin our Speaking Circle." I replied.
 
"No Ma'am, I'm stayin' over here with T." G. retorted stubbornly.
 
"You'll lose class-points for every minute you're off task, G. You're doing so well. Why are you risking losing the level you've worked so hard to earn?" I asked pointedly.
 
"I don't care, Ms S. I'm staying over here with T. I'll read a library book or somethin'," G. replied matter-of-factly.
 
"Boys, please, remember that you can join class any time. The moment you do you'll start to earn your daily class and behavioral points once again. We're starting a new short story today. It's a good one full of heroes, evil villains, and monsters. I hope you'll decide to join us."
 
I saw G. cast a glance toward T. He was checking to see what T. was going to do.
 
T. didn't budge. He acted as if he had not heard a word I had uttered.
 
I asked Ms. J. to remain in the Art and Science room with the two boys, while I went next door to begin the Speaking Circle in order to guide the reading and discussion of our next short story.
 
I was puzzled by G.'s unexpected behavior. His insistence on staying with T. G. was normally so compliant. He had come a long way in improving his behaviors, and the quality of his class work However, I helped him find one of the classroom library books all of the boys would eventually be tested on.
 
G. smiled at me, "Thank you, Ms. S" Then he turned, walked over to the only other classroom couch, sat down, and began reading his book.
 
I walked next door and began our Speaking Circle.
 
As soon as I sat down within the Speaking Circle, T. began yelling through the open Art and Science doorway which connected our two classrooms, "Hey, you P _ _ _ Ant, M _ _ _ _ _ F _ _ _ _ _s! You don't have to do what she tells you to do! All of y'all, come on over here!"
 
Alright. I was going to have to apply some pressure to T., and observe where he went with it. I had to get to the bottom of his determination to Escalate. Determination to disrupt the Classroom as a Whole.
 
I had learned a long Time ago with Horses and People that if you Stand Strong - Stand Patient, Loving and Calm - but Strong during their Emotional Storms. Rode the Strom out with them. Endured and Secured them as they whirled around within an Emotional Tornadic Tailspin. That at the end of the Storm, when the Skies cleared and the Howling Winds of Chaos settled down - diminished. They found you still with them - Strong - Patient - Loving and Calm. No judgments. A Friend - a Mentor who would be there for them no matter what.
 
When you can ride with - stick with the worst in Someone without giving into the Howling Wind of Chaos a Bond of Trust is Created. The confusing, destructive Emotions transform themselves into a Soul Bridge between the troubled person and the person who, through it all, stayed with and bore it all with them.
 
At the end of the Storm Everyone benefits. Everyone Grows in unfathomable ways.
 
It's a difficult process. Not for the faint of Heart. But the results are amazing and Life Changing for Everyone involved.
 
I needed to apply pressure and see where this Storm was heading. T. had never behaved this way in my classroom before. This was new. I had a bad feeling about where all of this was going, but for Everyone's sake I had to find out what was he building up to with all of his pent up rage.

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Part I - Part II - Part III 

 

 


     
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Emanuel Paparella2012-12-21 14:58:27
Leah, this must be a painful personal story (about which you have hinted previously in Ovi) requiring much strength and courage to narrate, all the more why it is a timely story considering the outrage and obscenity that just occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary a week or so ago.

As Dostoyevsky has well taught us, it is only when a story deals honestly with pain and suffering, defeat and humiliation, guilt and innocence within the human condition, that it becomes powerfully human and existentially meaningful. I for one continue to hope and pray that all those “pious” people who consider themselves religious but have made guns their idols and the symbol of their misguided idea of freedom, will read carefully and ponder what you have to say on this issue and hopefully reconsider their erroneous position. It is the likes of you and kindred spirits that will bring it about.


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