a death in the bronx, they desrve better

19 Jun



‘A 14-year-old Bronx boy who may have been teased and robbed by a 14-year-old schoolmate stabbed him to death on Wednesday afternoon outside the school they attended, the police said.

The boys were students at Intermediate School 117 (Joseph H. Wade) in the Mount Hope neighborhood. The stabbing took place around 3 p.m. in front of the school building at the end of the school day, the police said’

So the story begins and ends. I used to live there; I worked there. It is still my ‘here and now,’ in a lot of ways. My there. I had my first day of teaching  in that building, Wade JHS, in the 1970s. It was hard then; hard now; it will be hard in another twenty.

My first day at Wade I entered as a subsittue teacher. The principal greeted me (I didn’t quite realize at the time how unusual this was at the time; APs took care of sub teachers, not principals) and asked ‘Osewalt eh? Are you related to Lee?’

I got this a lot and said no. I had learned to keep it simple in responding to Lee Harvey Oswalt questions. I didn’t even say, no, it is spellt differently. I just said no.

‘This school has two famous graduates. Laura Nyro and Lee Harvey Oswalt.’ I looked at him a little more closely. He was wearing red suspenders and had a gun strapped to his left hand side. This was really unusual. I really like Larua Nyro’s singing. But this seemed very strange.

‘I like you. You are just starting out. I am going to give you a full Spanish program till the end of the year. Teacher out. Pregnancy leave.’

I started to explain that I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

He said, ‘Trust me. Take the program.’

I did. I needed the money.

He was right. I walked into the classroom. students were all working at their desks getting ready for the Spanish Regents. They were all Asians. A girl picked up her head. Other heads followed.

‘You our teacher?’


‘You speak Spanish?’


Her head and the others went down. They never spoke to me again, except to ask for a pass to the bathroom. It was the easiest June in the toughest school setting I have ever had.

June in schools is where and when things die. School year ends; teachers are done; they are ‘seeing the beach’; students are angry. Exams; summer school.  Girls and guys want to settle scores,  accounts, before the last day. June is a school’s hardest month.

But someone, a child, doesn’t have to die.

Those kids should have had a real Spanish teacher. Not me. They deserved better. They still do.

One Response to “a death in the bronx, they desrve better”

  1. P Osewalt June 19, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    You my Charlie sat with them, maybe you didn’t know Spanish, it doesn’t matter you were there. I love you. Just finished with Tammy and Mary O. Used L 1 1 . I am going to get out for a walk. The show is at7:30 . I love you.

    Sent from my iPhone


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