Each year, I notice trends amongst the groups of kids as they migrate up to the high school. One group was particularly strong in math, but not so hot in the English department, one group had fun attitudes, but not a lot of math or English skills, but this year shall be known for sheer anger and inability to relate appropriately to other human beings!
I see angry kids every year, there’s no doubt about it, but this is definitely the year of the Angry Child in my neck of the woods. While I’m empathetic and sympathetic to an unholy degree, I’m also handcuffing myself quite nicely in terms of how much I can actually teach these kids.
So… The kid didn’t sleep last night because of all this crap going on at home and he tells you so and gets mad when you tell him he can’t sleep in class. I can’t tell him off, and I can't tell him to lift his head up for the billionth time. Do I give up and let him sleep? Do I let him make up the assignment each time this happens? When does it become a boy cries wolf situation? What do the other students think when they see this?
So… Another kid experienced a great trauma a week and a half ago and it has resulted in her completely losing it with staff and students almost daily, cussing and verging on coming to blows, disrupting classes and hallways. We’re told to give her more space, which I can understand, but what kind of credibility do we have amongst our students when they see their teacher get yelled at, called names, and sworn at by a student, only to see that the student receives no consequence?
So… The kid brings no materials to school because money is tight at home. We buy the materials for him, only for him to lose them more than once and get mad when you tell them you can’t keep buying them replacements, so he refuses to work. This isn’t just a case of his not bringing in a pencil, it’s school books, book bags, calculators, etc. I can have a trade plan set up for pencils, whereby he has to leave me collateral if he wants to borrow a pencil, but I can’t do it for other materials consistently.
These kids DO deserve sympathy and our understanding, but on a superficial level I have to get these kids to pass the state test, and on a more significant level, I have to prepare them for the real world. Will the world be forgiving for the cussing and the fighting because they’ve got “anger issues, you know that, so get outta my face”? Will the world read things for them because they graduated high school with the reading level of an elementary student at best? And I’m not talking exclusively about the students with special needs at all, but even those kids will be held accountable for their actions (or inactions) in the work place, unless they’re bagging at Krogers. Are we perpetuating the dependency on Welfare every time we buy them the same things over and over for which they fail to take ownership and responsibility?
Aren’t we, instead, dooming these kids to a life of dependency, mediocrity (at best), poverty because they can’t keep down a decent job even if they GET a DECENT job, and even jail time? Have we lost sight of the fact that after four years, they actually leave the shelter of our building and have to go out into the Big Bad World? It depresses the hell out of me.
While I’m a bit of a “fiscal conservative” this isn’t my whining that I don’t want to be paying for them to sit around so much as my feeling heartbroken at the loss of potential, hope, and chances for happiness for these young people. Even when some of us DO care enough to try our damnedest to pave their ways with opportunity after opportunity to succeed, it’s often OTHER ADULTS who whip those paving stones right out from under the kids…
I’m talking about the teacher who intentionally provokes the fragile student to get him kicked out (sorry, folks, it happens), I’m talking about the teachers who fail to communicate what they know about the kids to others (more on this later), or the people who heard the words of warning and failed to act, to the psychologist who takes his sweet-ass time to get a kid identified as having special needs because the truth is he has no fucking clue how to do his job, to the parent who ignored or abused their child, to the doctor who didn’t want to put a name to the child’s mental condition because he didn’t want the kid to have such a harsh label attached to him at such a young age but then doesn’t suggest a follow up evaluation later on in the kid’s life…
These kids are being failed by adults over and over and I’ve had enough of it. I refuse to contribute to their failure, but at the same time I realize I’m part of a bigger team, and if the team doesn’t work together, the whole structure falls apart and you’ve got more kids headed to untreated mental illnesses and lives of crime, perpetuating the cycle that came before and will come after them for many generations.
Here’s my proposal. A period can be offered to include the following: Anger management, relationship building, coping skills, and study skills. I’d even include some etiquette lessons. All year long. The class would include goal setting for each student based on their particular need/s and this would be shared with all the students’ teachers. This class would be optional unless the student receives more than three days of out of school suspension, in which case it would be compulsory. Maybe it could be wrangled in such a way that the kids could earn an elective credit for it.
I've got so little free time, so forgive me if this could have done with a lot more editing.