Friday, September 5, 2008

Overwhelming

I haven't been able to come up with much to blog about lately. Getting into the swing of school and all. It's wonderful to be back. And overwhelming.

The needs of our students just blow my mind.

Our student body "turns over" fairly frequently as students complete their expulsion and return to their home school, drop out or graduate. New students arrive with every school board meeting. The maximum expulsion period is 2 years (state law); East Peoria takes advantage of that and gives most students the maximum regardless of the offense (violence vs. absences vs. drugs). Other districts use more discretion and hand out shorter expulsions.

But the needs. There are just too many and not enough resources.

A 14 year old girl who doesn't know how to "round" numbers. She's not even clear on place value. A 15 year old girl who still hasn't grasped the concept of "borrowing" and "carrying" in Math.

The 15 year old boy who can read out loud very well, but whose comprehension is so minimal that he's has a hard time answering basic questions about a story we've read.

I know there are people who would like to blame these student's gaps in learning on the education system. Or on the kids' parents. After all, how can a child reach high school not knowing basic principals of reading and math? Surely the education system has failed them.

Not really.

Many of the students have moved several times. One 4th grade class might do rounding on October while another covers the material in November. If the students moves a lot, there's a very real possibility that he or she missed the unit. Teachers try to fill in the gaps and holes, but it's not easy.

How about the students who have to stay home to care for younger siblings while parents work or while parents are incapable of caring for their children? Those children should be taken away from their parents, right? Who is going to take them? Chances are good that the rest of the family unit is suffering as well. Foster care? Another move, another new school.

My students are fighters. Some in the literal sense of the word, but all in the figurative sense of the word. They've learned just to SURVIVE in a society that just doesn't understand them. They've learned to fend for themselves. They don't always come to school clean. Their clothes aren't always washed.

They are the kids who walk down the street and you wonder "why isn't that kid at school?" He's not at school because his mom was out the night before and no one was home to wake him up in the morning. She's not at school because she went home with a friend the night before because there's no food in her house and her step dad beats the shit out of her.

What's wrong with the parents? That's usually what people say. Um, these parents used to be these kids! They try to raise their families on minimum wage. They are trying to feed and cloth their families while others look down on them. They live in rough neighborhoods. If they work during the day and aren't home when their kids get home from school, the neighbors complain that their kids are unsupervised. If these families look to the government for support, they are told they're worthless and "sucking" off the government.

I love this job and I love these kids. I despise what the world and society does to them. They don't feel "lifted up" and "inspired". They feel beat down, worthless, helpless and forgotten.

My goal each day is to make sure that each student I interact with walks away feeling like someone gave a damn.

8 comments:

Katie said...

Rix - I think that you mean more to those kids than you will ever realize. I've heard how you talk about them and the funny conversations you have with some of them. You are doing a great thing by caring for these kids. Hopefully some of them will take that and be able to make something out of the crappy situation that they cannot help. Rix, you are doing a great job.

Jimi said...

I completely agree with Katie!

Mahkno said...

Keep up the fight. You are their lighthouse in the rough seas that surround them.

Anonymous said...

You are truly an asset at our school. I am glad your room is next to mine. A positive vibe comes from your room! Your sense of humor is great, my students and I often laugh when you say some of the things you say! It is too bad there arent more teachers like you. Dont get discouraged; the kids truly love you! Keep up the good work!

Rixblix said...

Thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes it feels like we are putting band-aids on amputations at that school. But I can't really see myself (or most of my co-workers) doing anything else. It's often as rewarding as it is overwhelming.

Jennifer said...

Rix,
I think the saddest thing is seeing kids who feel hopeless and who, we, as a society, seem to have written-off. No child should feel like that or be treated like that.
Thanks for all the (underpaid) work you do.
Jennifer

Linda said...

When dealing with kids in the professions we are in, every day is a bandaid day. But without a bandaid, there would be nothing. Keep up the good fight, lady!

Anonymous said...

You are a god send to those children. Keep caring, keep the open mind about the children. I am a school volunteer, the response I get from kids from the little time I spend with them is awesome. You are a shero. It gets tough sometimes, but you are are making a real difference. God bless.