Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good Days and Bad

Some days feel like the equivalent of bipolar disorder in the classroom. There are ups and downs that strike so fast that I'm beginning to wonder if I haven't somehow developed the disease without my knowledge. I think that any sort of service profession is bound to have it's ups and downs, but I never expected this. Then again, I view my students as people instead of children. That may have been where I went wrong to being with.

Not too long back, one of my students went missing. I had figured that it was coming. He was always in and out of trouble and in fact was in so much trouble that he was locked up in a detention center pending a court case to decide if he was going to prison. He was able to go to school during the day but was under lock and key at a detention facility at night. A few weeks ago he disappeared. I heard from one of my students that he had run away from the detention facility and that friends where holding him at different houses for under 24 hours since there was a warrant out for his arrest. I expressed my extreme disapproval for the stupidity of the situation. Now he was going to go away and do hard time.

I found out yesterday that he was caught by the police in gang colors. For those that aren't familiar with this, members of a gang wear specific items of dress to indicate their membership. This goes back to the original cowboy gangs of the old west, liquor running bootleggers, organized crime of all ethnic groups, and the modern ganstas. If the police catch people in gang affiliated dress, then the sentence gets jumped up. When my student told me about this, I responded with "that is so stupid!" referring to the gangs. He took offense. Apparently, there are more of them in my classroom.

The difficult part about working in the inner city isn't the knowledge that the gangs are there and that they are recruiting young children into their fold. The difficult part about working in the inner city is that you walk in and the children don't have little flags about their heads that say "can be saved" or "can't be saved." I walk in every day with the assumption that I might be able t help each and every child. I know that I can't. I know that it's unrealistic to think that I can reach every single child and pull all of them out by their ears to a better life. I want to but I can't. I don't have the energy, time, money, or sanity. I know I can reach some, but I never know which ones or when.

The really difficult part is that to do my job and do it well, I need to make connections. I need to develop rapport with my students so that they trust me and will do what I ask of them. In order to do that, I get to know them and they get to know me. This is where it bites me in the posterior: when you get to know them you get to care. It's hard to remain detached when I know that one of my students has been in a gang since he was 11 years old and has probably seen more things than any 11 year old probably should have ever seen. I want to shake him and put him on a train to the other side of the country, but I can't. I want to go outside and scream because it's not fair and it's never been fair and it never will be fair. It's just the way that it is.

There are good days and there are bad days...

... and I still love my students no matter what they do outside of school. I can remain detached for them. I will keep this job until I can't anymore. The day that I can't handle it anymore is the day that I walk out that door and don't come back.

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