My anticipation was great. Coming off of an insane weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana, I knew that my fatigue combined with their anticipation would be quite interesting. And, yes, I was right! I don't think anyone had a particular interest in being there today, with no exception made for the teacher.
But, that's fine, we had an allright day either day. My students have become a small family in these past few weeks. The gang talk and gang competition ends when they walk in the door, something that I wish they could realize and apply to the rest of their lives. I talked to one of my students today about how well he has been doing in the class (with a 90% ...and 45% increase from his diagnostic exam). My talk seemed to influence his actions further, with his participation and leadership in the classroom skyrocketing, but then I talk to him after school about how well he did and how he can help me and he says "I'm not going to be there probably." And why is that? He got into a gang fight and was arrested, and is now going to his court date tomorrow where he could be a) going to juvenile detention, b) going on house arrest, c) going on probation (ideally).
The complexity of these students is mind blowing. My life was filled with soccer practice, sprinting home after school to watch "Blossom" (oops, don't tell the parents I watched television when I wasn't allowed!!), and the occasional movie at the mall. Happy simplicity that I always remember fondly, I am again, beyond lucky for my childhood and support system.
I realized today where this stems from for some of these students too. After I talked to this student about his court date I watched him walk away with some of his friends and realized something very obviously different from my school experience. These other students were 2 even 3 years behind in their schooling. That puts them at 16 years old when they are interacting with students like mine. As they are pulled back in their school years their friends can still progress through high school. That means if someone like Alexis hangs out with these kids after school he is most likely also hanging out with these boys friends on the weekends...and therefore surrounded by a bunch of 16 year olds.
I finally got it. Holding these students back creates a infectious cycle of the younger students. As I have a 16 year old girl in my class, with two children, she invites my 12 year olds to a party and they are exposed to alcohol, drugs, sex, and whatever else they should not be seeing at that age. This continuously passes down and creates this environment of students that are too OLD for their age! All I want to say, and did say to Alexis, is STOP!! ENJOY YOUR IMMATURITY! This time of your life is supposed to be lighthearted and all about growing into your own. I don't want their own to be filled with this dumb stuff.
I see these young students (like my two girls in the front row) that have not been affected by these factors, but have been affected socially. One of my girls speaks out against gangs and getting involved in these "too old" extracurriculars and she is constantly shunned by the other students. Labeled as a brown-noser, she is ignored or talked over constantly and her confidence is rocked every day. I meet with her at lunch at least 3 times a week and she gets 100% when we talk things out...yet struggles in class. The social pressures are insane. As I have stepped away from this (and had the opportunity to go to single-sex high school) I had truly forgotten about this aspect of school. Anyway, I won't rant about the advantages of the single-sex environment (but you should know that it fosters an amazing spirit in young ladies!) but my little Diana would truly benefit from something like that.
Ah well, 3 more days of classes and exams. I have learned too much from these kids. I have never felt like I could leave such a footprint like I have these past few weeks on these children. Even when they are mouthing off or being disrespectful they still respond to positive reenforcement like no one else I have ever met. All it takes is ONE person to say they believe in you ...and everyone will run with it.
one day all children...