Yesterday, I was working in a continuation school. These are the students that couldn’t make it at a regular school for whatever reason. Mostly, these are people who were just too lazy to show up to a regular class on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some of these students are single mothers who couldn’t finish traditional schools because they had a kid to deal with. Of these, the first group has less of my sympathy. But there is a third group that are actually my favorite students. These are the dumbasses (and no, I’m not going to censor my feeling for these kids. Adults not talking to these kids honestly is a huge part of the problem) who were violent, or were stupid in using drugs and/or alcohol, and their schools just couldn’t deal with it anymore.
I really do like working at a continuation school. At traditional schools, students seem to feel a sense of entitlement and act as if they are put upon by having to show up to school and listen to the teachers. Of course I knew that going in, so please don’t think I’m whining about how difficult my job is. I’m not. I love what I do. But at continuation schools, these kids all know that they screwed up somewhere. They understand that their choices and their behavior caused them to be bounced. Most importantly, these kids make an active decision every day to show up to school, because they understand that finishing high school is the absolute last chance they have to do something positive in their lives. By and large, they have lost the sense of entitlement that their peers in traditional schools have.
“These kids make an active decision every day to show up…,”
This isn’t to say that they are easy students to teach: They absolutely aren’t. Many of these students have very little trust in teachers or other adults. For many, this mistrust is absolutely rational and valid. In their homes, some of these kids were abused, neglected, or raised by idiots that shouldn’t have been able to hold a child, much less have one. These same kids went to schools and behaved in a predictable manner given their background, and teachers just didn’t help them. Some teachers might have tried, but their hands were tied by regulation, administration, union rule, or whatever else. Others, sadly didn’t care. They only had to deal with the kid in question for an hour a day till the summer, then they were someone else’s problem. In any event, teachers sometimes deal with hundreds of students a day, and it isn’t realistic that one student can always get the time needed to help them. Many students at these schools feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are alone against the world. Well, the world is a pretty big place, and one person will never be able to beat the world. So these kids, and people need to understand that they are still just kids, look for people who seem the same as them.
One of my students came in to class early yesterday. He didn’t know that I was going to be there, but we started talking about his experience in a continuation school. He got there by fighting. He got in several fights at school and he was kicked out for it. He told me that he was excited that he was finally going to graduate in a couple of months. He told me that he knew this was his “last chance”, and shared a bit of his plan with me.
“He told me that he knew this was his ‘last chance’…,”
His problem was that in his world-view, you had to align yourself by race or color. He showed me his tatoo that proclaimed his “pride” in his race.
Then I saw a video on the news. Some guy was calling for “young people, african americans, Latinos, and women” to stand together to help move the country in a particular direction.
I saw this and wondered why only these groups were being called. What happened to all the men, Caucasians, Asians, older people, middle easterners and other groups? Then I flashed back to my student from yesterday feeling that the only way for him to have a chance was by getting with others of his race and fighting against other races. It didn’t help when I saw that “some guy” was actually the President of the U.S.A. Don’t believe me? Check it out.
Look, young people. The fight isn’t between whites, blacks, browns, yellows, or even between crosses, stars, crescent moons, or inverted pentagrams even. The fight is between you and everybody out there who tries to divert your attention from the real goal of living a good life, having a happy family, and being able to provide better for your kids than your parents were able to do for you.
Right now, the politicians are foaming at the mouth with excitement over a new law in Arizona. Those with an “(R)” next to their name will say that the law is about national security. Those with a “(D)” next to their name will tell you it is about racism and civil rights. Both sides could care less about the individual who might be affected by this law. Neither side cares about you. They care about keeping themselves in power and you beholden to them for your survival. They both consider you as nothing more than a vote and a number.
In my own state of California, teachers –let me say that again– TEACHERS are trying to frame a debate over money as those who care about kids and those who hate teachers. They should know better. You have to know better. The truth is, the unions don’t care about the kids, the politicians don’t care about the kids, and the teachers who abdicate their charge to help form you into productive adults don’t care about the kids.
How do you deal with this? First, don’t accept blindly what anybody tells you. Question it and the person who told you. Question their motives, their accuracy, and their reason. The one thing you shouldn’t question is your own gut. You know right from wrong. You don’t need them to tell you about it. Stop allowing your race or color to determine who you are. If you are American, that’s good enough in America. Some of the best conversations I’ve had on the subjects of race relations have been of several different races. We might not always agree, but we all agree to have an open and honest discussion of the issues, where nobody attacks the other’s beliefs or ideas, no matter how alien they may seem to anybody else. Finally, find those adults out there who actually do have your best interests at heart and learn whatever they can teach you. Keep questioning, but learn.
The only time I want to hear the phrase, you’ve got to keep them separated, is in this video, which, by the way is a great song to run on an elliptical machine on. The beat is fast and the group has a lot of energy. Enjoy!