The youth-written stories in YCteen give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Labeled Troublesome
Battling with my teachers is becoming a big problem
Desmin Braxton
headshot

Some names have been changed.

Walking through the front door of my middle school, it feels like someone’s turned the temperature up. I start sweating as if I had a fever. It seems like everything just stops and all the attention is focused on me. Today feels like a trouble day.

My music teacher stands at the corner of the hallway, looking at me like I’ve got something on my face. As I walk through the hall I see kids playing, fighting, ripping posters off the wall, and just chillin’ in the hallway. The noise level is high.

I spot my math teacher. He does not look happy to see me. He stares at me rudely with his arms folded and his jaw clutched, like I’ve already done something wrong.

“Hello, Mr. Davis, how you today?”

He continues to stare, so I continue walking through the hall to the auditorium. Before I get there, my social studies teacher from last year stops me.

“Desmin."

“What?”

“Where are you going?”

“To the auditorium, with my class.”

“Go there right now.”

I start getting mad. It’s crazy how he stops me even though he knows where I’m headed, but he walks past the other kids and doesn’t say anything. It’s like I have on a bright red shirt that says, “Stop me.”

“OK, out of all eight people in this hallway you choose me,” I reply.

“Yeah, you, because you might hang out in the hallway.”

“All right, but you don’t seem to see these other kids in the hallway. Tell them to go into the auditorium.”

“No, just worry about yourself, not them.”

“Aight.”

War

I admit I do things that get me in trouble at school. I like to talk in class, argue with the teacher and make people laugh. But I feel like the teachers and principals are always waiting for me to do something stupid so they can jump on my case. It’s like we’re in a war. The only question is who’s going to strike first.

A lot of times it’s me who makes the first strike. I do these little tests to see if a teacher is going to be respectful. If the teacher is cool, I’m not going to cross the line. But if he gets me mad, it’s going to be a battle.

When I get a negative response from my teachers, I react with a rude comment, to let them know I do not like what they say. It makes me mad that they feel they can speak to me any way they want and try to make me afraid of them.

All this negativity affects my attitude towards education. When teachers make me mad, I stop caring and I don’t want to do their work. I fight back and stop other kids from learning by making jokes or even throwing stuff across the classroom for fun.

But the arguments with my teachers are cutting into my time for doing my work. It’s making me fall behind in class so my grades are dropping. I end up focusing on the teacher and not learning the lesson. Then I’m stuck looking silly, without a clue on how to do the work.

How the War Began

When I first started school, things were different. I wasn’t labeled a troubled kid. I was a good student. I’m not saying I was perfect; I did my little clowning around. But I handled my schoolwork and followed directions. I even got awards for my behavior in school and for my test scores.

I think things started to change when I got a mean teacher in 2nd grade. His name was Mr. Brown. Nobody liked him except for me because he really hadn’t been mean to me. That all changed one day when we were writing a story in class.

I was talking, because I like to talk and I hate to be bored. But this day, Mr. Brown reacted by yelling in my face and telling me to shut up. His mouth had an odor. I yelled back at him, “Yo, get out my face!” It was the only thing I could do to defend myself.

Then Mr. Brown grabbed me out of my chair like I was a baby. He gripped my arm so tight that my blood stopped flowing and dragged me to the classroom next door. In that moment I went into such a rage that I was ready to kill him. This teacher had an anger problem, and he gave me one, too.

Respect My Boundaries

image by Lee Samuel

All Mr. Brown had to do was ask me to get up. Why would you get in a little kid’s face and grab him with force? I don’t want any teacher putting their hands on me.

Ever since Mr. Brown, I’ve felt that I have to let teachers know where my boundaries are. Since him, it’s been all disrespect to any teacher I felt disrespected me, especially when I got to middle school.

By that time, I was really struggling to control my anger, and teachers had to work hard to earn my trust. Two of them did, the rest didn’t. So I spent most of my time being frustrated and angry and picking a fight before the teacher got to start it. But sometimes I forget that not every teacher wants to pick a fight.

Consequences

Now I am on the brink of being kicked out of school because of my behavior. I think my teachers feel like the school would have no problems if they just got rid of me, and that upsets me. I feel disgusted because they label me the bad seed. I don’t see myself as that.

I just want to pass 8th grade and move on to high school. I don’t really want to draw negative attention to myself for acting up. I’d rather draw positive attention to myself for being on the honor roll.

I want to go to college and get my master’s degree. I want to become an architect or maybe an entrepreneur so I can be my own boss. With this brain, I feel that I have the skills to start my own business—like a champagne label or maybe a record label. But first I have to graduate from high school.

I like my classes, but I get bored with the way most of the teachers teach. Math is one of my favorite subjects. I like dealing with numbers and solving equations. I like thinking about how math will help me manage my money and company stocks in the future. But I can’t love math the way I want to if I keep having altercations with my teachers.

Banished

Recently I got suspended again and had to transfer temporarily to a “suspension site.” That’s helped me figure something out: When you change the habitat, the person inside it changes with it.

Now that I’m in this suspension site, I’ve adapted to the ways in there and I’ve changed my attitude toward the teachers. The teachers in the suspension site are there to teach and give a helping hand. I am more comfortable expressing myself to them without having to worry about starting a battle.

At my old school, I felt like teachers were forcing me to do work and there was no other way. I’d get angry and hold it in until I just started spazzing all over the place. At this school, if I don’t feel like doing the work, I just say so, and the teachers leave me alone.

Can I Change?

It’s better for me to not hold in my anger. When I tell these teachers how I feel, they give me some space. It’s working. I’m doing my assignments now and I’m learning without any problems.

But in a few days, I’m going to be returning to my old school, and I know something’s got to change.

Back in that old habitat, I’m not going to be able to talk with the teachers in this new way. So far, the only thing I can think to do is try not to react to the teacher and instead hold in my anger, at least until I get outside of school.

If that doesn’t work and I can’t control my anger, I’ll have to transfer to a new school. It’s hard adapting to a new school when you know none of the students, like being a small fish in a big pond. But in a new habitat, maybe I could change.

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(FCYU-2009-03-18)

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