So, the previous student that I posted about (I will refer to him as A) was arrested after the head hitting incident for tagging. He spent his time away from school in jail, which seemed appropriate. He had made a long list of bad decisions and he got what he deserved. This became a good life lesson, and something I could hold over his head to motivate him to do his work and graduate. This was going well until he told me that he had to pay 80 dollars to do court mandated graffiti removal. So every morning I would ask him how much money he saved, and he usually came up with comments on how he spent all of his money on weed or something stupid. So then, after days of this and me guilt tripping him he asked me to hold his money and save it for him. This way he wouldn't be tempted to spend it. I told him I would think about it, because as I mentioned before I LOVE MY JOB and I don't want to do anything to jeopardize it, and I don't like getting into trouble. So I took a day to think about it and decided it was for the greater good and I would hold his money for him. It has been 3 days and he almost has all of the money! It is insane! He always says how his Grandma doesn't give him any money, and now I know why....he smokes it all!!! Every morning he comes by and gives me money to save for him and I count it, make a note about the amount of money there is and congratulate him on how he is close to the goal. Now, I know this is rough water I am walking in, but I also know it is right. I may only get paid to teach English, but I feel like I am teaching my 4 year old the same lesson I am teaching A, which is how to save money. Which is really delayed gratification. It is sad he never learned this, but also good to see how excited he is as we are getting closer to the goal.
Love my job
A good friend of mine told me that I needed to start a blog to share all of my experiences. Most of them are hilarious, to me at least. But she also advised that it would be therapeutic to write it out and document all of my experiences. So here is how it started. I was hired by a wonderful continuation school towards the end of last year. I was coming from a charter school that I hated! I mean hated! I went through a Administrative Credential Program during my time there and all of the research I did, brought me to resent the logistics behind the school more and more. Finally in a leap of defeat I quit, and within the week I had the job of my dreams at a school that was so accepting and wonderful I did everything to make sure I didn't mess anything up. Being at a good school is all of the motivation you need to want to be a better teacher. I am not saying that you can put a teacher that does not want to teach into a good school and they will excel, but I am saying that if you put a hard working, dedicated but defeated teacher into a good school they will excel. And that is what happened to me.
From there, I renewed devotion to teaching at-risk youth and ran with it. But as all runners know, there are always bumps, cracks and traffic in the road that you don't always expect. Those are the things that we look back at and laugh. For me, this past year I have had a difficult time with one particular student. He is a known pot smoker, often talks about getting drunk any day of the week, and drives his teachers crazy! He is loud, high energy and not made for school. I do want to side note this statement by saying that it is not always a bad thing to not be made for school. Many of our best minds were not made for school, they were made for the world.
Back to the topic, yes he is hard to deal with, but mainly he is looking for someone to care for him. Some one to listen and mentor him. Like many of my students he doesn't get any of that at home. He is poor, lost, and is most at home in school. This student has often said that he wishes I was his mom and refers to me being a good mom to him often. And with that, I have resulted in many mom like teenage arguments with him. One argument which left me with a headache after being hit in the back of the head!!! So this is the start of many crazy stories that I hope to get off my chest, out of my mind and posted to look back on and laugh. After being hit in the back of the head, a good glass of wine and some good laughs are much needed to heal!
Continuation Schools in California are a direct reflection of the district that they serve. The students that come to these schools are the students that did not succeed in the traditional classroom environment. Many students have awful home lives, did not fit in with their peers, were teased and tormented, or were the ones teasing and tormenting. In my opinion, the one thing that is missing in these huge comprehensive high schools is the amount of listening that is going on. I think of growing up as a cycle of listening. As babies we listen and mimic, as children we learn how to speak, in our teenage years we peak in our speaking ability and need to learn how to listen. The most successful students listen just as much as they speak as adolescents, rather than always speaking and never listening. In adulthood we should grow to be listeners and reflectors, listening to the world around us making change as needed. With my students there is no balance of listening and speaking. Students repeat the terrible things they heard at home, at school, in a culture of need and want. They are afraid to take risks, and they need to be heard, they need to understand the importance of listening to the world around them. I can't teach this in a year, but I can certainly listen. And I do. I listen all the time. I listen so much that I have to balance my teaching and listening to ensure my students feel heard. This takes a lot of time that I don't have, that no teacher has. But this time is worth it. My students trust me, maybe not ever single student, but the bulk of my students supremely trust me. Through them, I hear the voices of the community, my little piece of the world, and I make change. This is what I do, and I am proud to do it.