Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beautiful Gems

I like teaching. It's rewarding, frustrating, fulfilling, and challenging. My latest struggles involve my pre-AP students and getting them to be more focused and serious. It's a typical challenge to have. I'm working on things to make me adapt to the changing clientele at our school- that is more students are coming in less prepared and less serious. Still smart, just not a good work ethic. They need guidance and more help at home.

The other class I teach is regular English in the Academy. It's for 9th graders who are failing two or more classes badly. We bring them out to a remote part of campus, take away the social aspect of their day and get them back on track. It's like bootcamp with loving, but strict teachers.  As with any school initiative I've been involved in, the first year  is fabulous because the focus is on the students and program. After that first year it kind of gets pushed aside. And you are left doing the work with less help ( all the help promised goes away)  I'm feeling that now. But I still am working hard with these kids. Take David for example. He is a strange child. He looks Hispanic, yet has a Polish last name. He whispers and walks funny. I can't read his writing. He is easily looked over.

 I started getting to know him when I couldn't read his writing and asked him to read it to me. For being in special ed and having a learning ability the kid is smart. He listens, is a good reader and is right on. Once I saw he was motivated I worked with him with getting his thoughts in order and saying what  he really meant and of course getting him to slow down so someone could read his writing. 

Every day I try to connect with my students. I make a special effort of ask how they are and continue our conversation for the day before. David and I talked daily. He went from being a doodler on paper to a serious writer. He even asked me to read a poem he wrote.  One day I asked him why he had two stuffed backpacks and he replied simply smiling, "I got kicked out of the house." I said really and he nodded. I asked jokingly where he slept and again smiling, he replies, "In a ditch." So we get him to a counselor and contact his parents which of course isn't always really helpful. But sure enough he was kicked out, but they were working on resolving the problem. 

Yesterday he was gone and when I mentioned it to my coworker, he laughs and said oh we didn't tell you...he got caught with a knife, a couple in fact....He showed me a picture of the knife. Scary.  David is in jail and I'm stunned. He'll be in alternative school for a long time. 

This is the second kid to be arrested in two weeks. The other was for drugs. A third kid was high and was caught - all these kids I had invested time and energy in. I had hope for them. 
This scene plays out over and over in my life. So many kids are right there...on the verge of becoming connected to school...... So many times I work so hard and have a break through just to have it thrown away. 

I want to blame parents. If they spent the time I spend with their kids they would know what beautiful Gems they have and how they are letting them go to waste. 

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