One student to an eighth grader: “Are you Italian?” (Her last name makes no doubt about her Italian heritage. I point out her grade to show she’s not in kindergarten.) “No. What’s [Italian]?”
I spent two days substitute teaching at the local Alternative High School last week. All the students are considered highly “at-risk”. They’ve either failed academically or socially in the “normal” schools, and the alternative school is the last hope to keep them in school and work toward a diploma.
As I observed their behavior these two days I couldn’t help but wonder how they arrived here. Where are their parents? For most, the answer is they’re at home. But what broke down, or perhaps better when did the break down occur in their culture resulting in the byproduct before me?
Some of these kids, I’m told, are in abusive homes. Most, I suspect, are in negligent homes at best, which is another form of abuse. Some have criminal records. And now here they are - adolescents with little hope of lasting in the real world that is rapidly spinning their way. Most will wind up being supported by “the system”. (Our tax dollars at work.)
I see the problem. The question that disturbs me is “Is there anything I can do to stem this tide; to make a difference?” Probably not for these kids. Pessimistic but realistic. The faculty and administration here are trying hard, but it doesn’t take long to read the futility in their eyes and voices. Banging your head against a wall can do that. But I can try.
But what about the kids coming up behind them – the ones in pre-school and elementary school who are still moldable? Is the long range solution to focus on the kids or on the parents who produce them?
Wait a second. These kids will be the next generation of parents. Some already are.
“What grade did you fail?” “A bunch of them. Second grade, third grade, tenth grade…I can’t help it.”
If I didn’t believe in miracles I’d be really depressed right now.