Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Draw the Line at Roaches. Sorry.

Teaching students who are homebound due to medical issues or having been expelled has always been a way to make extra money. The past four years I had a fairly easy assignment, the student was on my caseload & I had him in one or more classes. Of course he graduated last year & since then I've gotten spoiled by being able to go home directly after school. I've turned down requests several times this school year because a student lived in a high-crime neighborhood, but last week I agreed to take a middle school student despite recognizing his address as being on what local residents refer to as "Crack Alley." This street has been the scene of murders, shootings, drug activity, prostitution, & probably a long list of other offenses. Google Maps showed the house as being further up the street, so I thought it'd be far enough away from the center of activity to be "safer": the red convenience store near a four-way intersection where there is always a significant amount of loitering and foot traffic.

Yesterday afternoon I drove through the neighborhood & noticed that very few houses were actually numbered, so I had to pull over & set up my GPS. The voice of Snoop Dogg guided me back to where I didn't want to be, two houses up from the red store. The yard at one of the houses was littered with at least half a dozen people just standing around. Luckily that wasn't where the student lived.

As we started to sort out the work that his teachers had already sent but he hadn't completed, his little sister seemed to be intruding on my personal space, asking me questions about my car, my calculator, my jewelry, etc. She even said, "Of course your car is white. You're white too." (That was kind of funny.) Then I noticed that she was carrying a bottle. The mother, who had just been sitting there staring at us, had gone into the kitchen to eat something. I asked the little girl how old she was & she told me she was 5. The mother later told me that she had never been in preschool or day care. Isn't 5 too old to be drinking out of a bottle?

The mother returned from a phone call & tells me that her other son is trying to find a ride home after being released from the mental hospital. I was startled that she told me this without prompting since we'd just met.

Then I tried to make sense of the jumbled papers the student had & something small & brown scuttling out from under the television caught my attention. "Oh, crap. They've got roaches." I tried not to dwell on it, but I couldn't focus after seeing the one, then two, then three roaches pop in & out around the tv. Ever since my days as a child protective services worker I've had a fear of carrying an infestation home from a dirty house. An extreme fear. So as time dragged on I made sure I didn't touch anything directly on the table as I peeked through the door watching the people on the corner at the store. I'm sure I saw a drug transaction, but that didn't bother me nearly as much as the roaches.

I was only there an hour and a half, but it felt like much longer. Before even reaching my car I'd made up my mind that I wasn't going back. I hate missing out on the money, but I can't Lysol my shoes & strip down upon entry to my house so that I can immediately wash my clothes every day. The bad neighborhood I could have dealt with, but not roaches.

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