Today, I watched one of my favorite students fly across a table to tackle one of my least favorite students. We called a Code Red, students were restrained and marched up to their rooms where they were locked for an hour while we processed the incident. They came down for lunch, and we narrowly avoided a second incident like the first.
To prepare the students for regular programming to resume after a day filled with chaos, anger, and aggression, they were processed out in groups. They had to share with their peers what they were taking accountability for, their goals, and how they could commit to safety and security, while airing any frustrations they have.
We don’t have girls very often, or in large numbers, right now we have 3. As their group wrapped up, two of them sat near each other while a third was at a distance – one white, one Latina, one black. The latter raised her hand, asking State Staff “Remember that group where we was talking about apologizing? Well, I think I’d like to do that now.” She proceeded to apologize to the former, whom she had offended, saying things like “Remember, we were cool, super cool, and then we just kinda forgot we had each other and got on each other’s nerves. Well I kinda came after you and I’m sorry about that – if you’re listening. If you’re not that’s cool, I mean, you’re your own person, and that’s your right, but I just want to be cool again.” The girl to she spoke to turned her chair around to face her, and said “I wasn’t trying to be a bitch to you, we all just say shit to each other some times and get arguments going, but nobody likes arguing, it doesn’t feel good and we shouldn’t be like that. I’m sorry and I take accountability, too.”
At this point, one of the State Staff and I have locked eyes in shock. These girls are vulnerable, volatile, and rarely see reason. Yet, here something beautiful is happening. And it’s not over.
The third girl takes this opportunity and jumps in with, “You know, when you first got here and people were coming at you, and I said just don’t listen to them, they’re not worth it, let it go? Well I kinda became one of those people and I shouldn’t be. We’re the only girls here, it’s just us, and we should stick together, help each other, you know? I want to apologize for irritating you and saying things to you I shouldn’t have, it’s not right. We’re not family, but we do all live here and eat here and see each other every day, so we kind of act like it. We’re all in here for different reasons and we don’t know what’s up with our cases or anything, so let’s just all support each other too. So yeah, you know, will you accept my apology?”
How beautiful. How beautiful that forgiveness, honesty, compassion and self-awareness were bred from violence, anger, and carelessness.
Today easily could’ve been a hard and absolutely defeating day. But these kids, they learn so much so quickly, and their growth makes my days bright and beautiful more than anything else.