Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The more I learn about my students' family and home situations, the more my heart sinks. My Enrique has two younger siblings and a single mother. They all live in one room in the grandmother's house. The grandmother's husband does not like the children much, and throws a fit if they make any noise, so they just stay in their one room. My impression of Enrique's mother is that she is a very caring, conscious woman who is just overwhelmed by life, poverty and her responsibilities. She told me flat out that Enrique has very little stimulation beyond television and video games and no real hobbies, and that he doesn't get out of the house much. He used to have karate classes, but she can no longer afford them.

I spoke with our instructional coordinator. Her recommendation was cub scouts, because a local church often will pay for the uniforms and outings for low income/at-risk children. Personally, I dislike the boy scouts. For one thing, they don't belong in public schools, being a discriminatory organization. Second, I hate anything that smacks of paramilitary bullshit. But, like with many things in my professional life, I compromise. Enrique needs something outside of the classroom that I can't give him. He has no friendly adult male influence (that I know of). And he needs to get out of his house and find something positive to do. So this week I am having two of the male teachers talk to him about their experiences in boy scouts, and when the recruiters come, I will just hope.

Speaking of at-risk children, I may have a new student tomorrow. New to me, at least. He was expelled from our school last year. He is a bright boy with some sort of behavioral issue. Issues. He spits on people. On purpose. Constantly. He gets up in the middle of class and takes off. I know the teacher he had last year. That teacher is absolutely brilliant, he's not one of the authoritarians or jeezers. And he had this child for two years and had a whole slew of problems. The crowning moment, however, was when this student brought a knife to school. When my kids saw him being re-enrolled, they all came up to me and told me they were scared to have them in our class. My principal seems to be on our side about this. I don't know what will happen. My principal did announce to us before an in-service that Satan was coming at us from all sides. I guess that explains it all, huh?

On a completely different note, I'm constantly being stricken by how much No Child Left Behind has damaged our educational system. I had art, music, library class, and P.E. several times weekly, if not daily, when I was in elementary school and junior high. Not only are these things essential, in my opinion, to child development and cultural understanding, but they were a time for kids who had different talents to finally have a chance to shine. Sure, I want every child to be an effective reader and to comprehend mathematics. But there will always be kids who struggle in those areas, while other kids excel. Having music, art, and physical education gives children with a wide variety of talents to not only get a time to be the ones who excel, but to discover talents in those areas. It's painful for me to think that my students could have some great musical gift and because they are poor and in a school without those resources that they may never develop or even discover that specialness. My school is instituting before-school clubs for the children to choose from. One of the clubs is arts and crafts, but it's just not the same. Children who are not making the test scores are barred from these clubs. These kids' families, for the most part, make less than $1,000 a month. They need every opportunity they can get. I try to incorporate these things into my lessons as much as I can, but I only have so much time. It's frustrating and I just want to stomp my feet and scream that it's not fair, it's not fair.

We start after school tutorials next week. Three nights a week. And, starting in September, we are doing Saturday school twice a month. What was that about teachers getting paid too much again? Life? What life?


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