Some students believe you when you warn them against certain things, like leaving valuables in their lockers. Others need to learn the hard way.
Two students stopped by my classroom after school today within minutes of each other. The first, a senior I taught last year, asked, "Hey, are you going to be here next Friday?"
"Yeah," I replied. "I don't know, I think so."
"Good, can I leave some things in your room and pick them up after school?"
"Of course. What stuff? Your guitar?"
"Yeah, effects pedals and my other gear. I don't want to leave it in my locker."
"Oh yeah, for the talent show, right? Of course."
"Cool, thanks a lot." With that, he left. And the second guy came in, a junior I currently teach. Didn't say anything, just sat down.
"What's up?" I asked.
"My lock's gone."
"Yeah. Someone got my laptop. Left my bag there, but my laptop's gone."
He was very quiet about it. Sad. Not angry. Just sad.
Oh man, I thought, how many times have I told these guys not to leave valuables in their lockers? Earlier this year someone broke into one of my girl's lockers and had taken some cash. After that I repeated my warning. Several times. I have a closet with a lock in my classroom, and I often store students' things there. It's where I keep my things.
"Is anything else missing?" I asked.
"They probably wrapped your computer in it," I said. "OK, listen, why don't you bring in your things from your locker? I'll go see if anyone can help out."
I went down to the security office, asked the dean of students if there's a working camera in my hallway. She clicked through about 20 camera shots in the building. Yeah, it's a fairly large building, but imagine that, 20 cameras are rolling all day, recording evidence. But of course there's no camera in my hallway, one of the main hallways in the building, a hallway with few other classrooms and rarely any security. So, no way of knowing who might have broken into his locker.
So I went back to my classroom. He was there with some friends and a pile of books. "Hey," I joked, "at least they didn't get these novels. Man, that would be a loss."
He tried to smile.
"The only thing we can do is have you fill out an incident report, unfortunately," I said. "But find out from your family if you guys have renter's insurance or something like that. Insurance might cover this kind of loss. Do you know where the dean's office is?"
"No," he said. Of course he wouldn't know where the troublemakers go.
Thinking about it later I realized asking about insurance was pretty dumb. The guy's family lives in section 8 housing. No way they have insurance.
And thinking about it later I wondered, why does this happen to the good kids? This guy comes from the same background as so many students in the school system--poor, African-American, scraping by. But he's such a good guy. Well-mannered. Intelligent, and not afraid to get good grades. Cool, but in his own way, not a member of any groups but a guy just doing his own thing. A reader. A thinker. In fact, the stolen laptop was a prize he had received from some organization honoring young African-American scholars.
And now it's gone.