One year many years ago in a very small private school I taught a young lad with a Biblical name who was a bit high strung, loved video games, and almost succeeded in murdering me.
His mom’s work schedule made it hard for her to pick him up on time, so I agreed to let him stay after school while I was tutoring other students. He seemed to relish the chance to spend unfettered time on the computers. One day, after an hour or so, he loosened up and started talking about his pent up feelings.
Usually I would just lend a sympathetic ear, but this time I had to do more since he shared his elaborate and serious plan to kill his baby sister.
So, yes, I talked him out of that. However, I hadn’t yet succeeded in persuading his mom to get them into much-needed counseling. Not a good thing!
Bad Timing for that Wake Up Drink
One morning I poured my usual cup of coffee, and noticed it had a sheen on top. I made a mental note to clean the coffee pot when the weekend came.
As per my habit, my first caffeine of the day was a big gulp. Bad mistake! I immediately realized something was really bad wrong. I felt it was in slow motion, and I refused to keel over, but I had immediate dizziness and a clear and somber realization of doom. I had an unreal feeling akin to a scene in some movie I’d seen, and somehow knew I must move fast.
I calmly sauntered over to my classroom assistant and whispered, “Be ready to take over. I think I’m in trouble–don’t let on–I think I’ve been poisoned. I don’t want to give it power. Keep things going, and stay observant.”
Then I went to the other room and called a parent who lived close by. While she was on her way I called Poison Control as there was no 911 at that point in time. Also, I didn’t want to give the perpetrator the rush of getting attention, so I kept things quiet.
Mid-morning, she put a movie on for Listening and Snack period, allowing the curtains to be closed without drawing undue attention. By then I was struggling to down a huge container of ice cream to help with the poison, at that time an unknown entity.
Meanwhile, other friends showed up to help, and we quietly canceled the after school program that day in order to have time to consult with the police and sort things out. Also, I wasn’t in great shape either, but I was determined not to lose consciousness and see this out.
When the students went home, we had the police and the family of the child who brought the vial come in, which had turned up sometime during the day. When we showed them the vial, a grandmother’s misplaced loyalty showed as she used her finger in an effort to wipe out the remaining liquid. Someone got it back just in time and there was still enough residue for chemical testing, no thanks to the codependent efforts of the grandparent.
Eventually the little vial was given to the police to evaluate, along with my coffeepot. It turned out it was floor wax mixed with bug poison, and was definitely meant to kill, not just make me sick.
At that time in my life, I couldn’t see my way to pressing charges. (However, later I realized that would have done the family a favor.) They did get counseling after I shared with them his original plan, and they realized the baby sister would not have survived the chemical concoction.
It turned out that the child didn’t hate me or anything, but was angry that I talked him out of killing his baby sister, so he had turned his plan on me, since he already had made up the mixture. Lucky I listened to my gut feeling and didn’t take another gulp. The chemist who tested the poisons said another swig probably would have finished me off.
After that day–and for the rest of my life–I’ve been very protective about anything I eat or drink. I got a covered cup for my coffee, and found a safe place for my coffeepot. If I leave a table and return, I don’t drink any more unless someone I trust has watched my food. I also came to understand that students, especially troubled ones, have more on their mind than just the teacher’s life. They may have more than they can handle just getting through their own life day to day.
I continued through the years to love and care for children. But I also never forgot how precious my own life was. I cherished my family and friends with renewed gusto, and still see each day of life as a precious jewel.
I continued to teach for many years, but never lost sight of the fact that Teaching Can Be Dangerous.
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission from author for use online or in print.