It never gets easier to hear about the students and their difficult lives. When I first started teaching, I had never lived or worked in an area where kids had to sleep in the bathtub or the closet because the "gangs was shooting." I never knew kids who had seen their cousin shot and killed or their dad stabbed to death. There were a couple of kids who i forced to memorize my phone number and promise to call me if they were in situations that were physically dangerous.
I've been extremely fortunate to reconnect with some of my old students recently and some, like this kid, have been incredibly encouraging. But others worry me, just like they did when they were in third grade.
One of them has dropped out of school at 15 and has gotten into drugs. No surprise, really, seeing that his mom has had a drug problem for decades. One of them messaged me on facebook and sounded incredibly depressed and discouraged "I don't think there's any way for you to help me but things are really really hard." Another, out of high school, has a brother with a drug problem who is threatening to kill her. Repeatedly. He put a loaded gun to her head and she passed out from fear. She called the police later and says they wouldn't come.
Many, many more of them have to deal with violence and poverty and hunger and drugs and racism and so so much that they shouldn't have to deal with. I'm so angry at what these kids (some of whom are now adults) have to put up with. I'm not even sure who to be angry at. Their families? It's not like their parents had it any better or knew how to become parents when they were teenagers. Society? Yeah, racism is alive and well, but I don't have many productive ideas on how to combat it. I get tired even thinking this far and just feel angry with this unfocused anger.
They deserve better. And they're still my kids, and I'm still heartbroken about this.
Four years ago: Social Skills