Highs and Lows

Posted May 5, 2007 2:16 am (about 4650 days ago)

April was another hectic month, but I got so tired of looking at the same blog for the past three months that I had to make the time to write a lil' something!

April was another hectic month, but I got so tired of looking at the same blog for the past three months that I had to make the time to write a lil' something!

So, as I sit here, trying to get better after a miserable week of the flu, I realized that I spent at least 24 out of 30 days in April with my students, 13 of which were outside the city of Oakland and involved hotels. When people ask me why I'm not in a rush to have kids of my own I need to cite statistics like that! I damn near have my own kids. But I don't say that as a martyr. I mean half of those days were at school and our two out of town trips involved three other people from my school at one point or another and after three years of working with these students there's a pretty tight bond between many of us. But still, that was a lot of time.

I could seriously write a book based on our two college trips alone. We took nine students down south for a week, checking out everything from a plantation to Historically Black Colleges to the Cascades skating rink. After returning to Oakland for a week, we took another trip to Southern California. We experienced the highs and lows of traveling, including canceled reservations, flea-bag motels (literally), and robbery. We visited one of my old high schools and the students got to meet one of my good friends from college, as well as family members of some of my co-workers. Unfortunately, I can't get into as many details as I'd like as we're in the midst of a million other things, including preparing for the state standardized tests, some special guests, and at least one more college trip.

However, one thing that definitely stood out was how race and ethnicity shapes so much in this world. To give on clear example, when we visited my old high school, which as about 1,300 students, the women giving the tour made mention of when "things used to be segregated. " We were there for three hours and saw ONE non-African American student. Yes, one. That's more extreme than when I attended that school in the nineties (and for the record, that was my favorite school ever, even if I didn't graduate from there!). On another night we attended a lecture at a major university in Atlanta and of at least 500 people, I only saw a small handful of students of color. The one Black woman I saw ended up being a close friend of mine back in Oakland! Of course the students picked up on the clear distinctions between higher ed and secondary ed. This comparison oversimplifies the situation, but was telling nonetheless. Adding another layer to this example was the rude behavior of many of the college students at the lecture, many of whom were texting, verbally chatting, throwing paper at their friends, etc. The so-called "ghetto" students that were with me rarely even do that in class.

Yet I'm glad that they were able to be put in these situations and the countless others that came about from leaving home. For some, it was their first time flying. For most it was their first time down south. Besides the typical college tours, they got to experience life! I'm truly excited for what the future holds for these students and I'm excited about the opportunities that await them. Already, two will be spending the summer at Smith College in a residential engineering program, another was accepted to a summer residential medical program at Stanford, and three others are finalists to be lead youth attorneys for the local court system. Mind you, these are all "hood kids" from East Oakland, mostly from immigrant backgrounds. I wouldn't mind making a bit more money, but nothing can replace the pride in seeing these young people beat the odds.

In terms of the downside, I could rant about those forever as well. As I told a couple of students, they're powerful enough to make the community proud, yet very able to embarass as well. Of the six students who I just praised, two nearly got kicked off of a flight back from L.A. and a third will not be permitted to attend our next field trip due to some behavior issues. One thing that particularly angered me this week was on the day of the pro-immigration marches the majority of our students did not attend school. As you can tell by my photo gallery, I've been known to attend a march or two. However, this year wasn't really planned out and we have SO much that we need to do that withouth any planning I didn't think that most of the students could afford to miss school. At the same time, I recognize that events like these can change people's lives. So, I wasn't overly mad that our school was so empty on Tuesday. However, when they came back, almost none of them had completed their homework! Because of our block schedule, some students had an additional two nights to do a reading an answer something like 20 questions. In one class ONLY ONE student who had attended the march handed in their homework. I was furious.

I had to severly bite my tounge, but not before asking them what was the purpose of the march...

To protect immigrant rights!

OK, to do what?

Get good jobs, to better their families, to get a good education.

OK, so why in the hell did you not do your homework? You have these rights, yet you don't take advantage of them? That's sad and pathetic and makes you look like a bunch of hypocrites.

Yeah, I was on a soapbox, but that's all I said. What else was there to say? They couldn't even respond. When we went to L.A. not all of the students attended so I left work for those who remained behind. Many of the students didn't complete the assigments or didn't had it in at all. I've been updating grades and in one class 60% of the students have a D or F now. At least 30% have a B or higher. The gap between the haves and have nots could get ugly in this class.

But this comes with the job. Our responsibility is to help these young people learn and grow, even when they drop the ball. It can be maddening at times, but in the end it's worth it. At the end of the day, people are doing to do what they're going to do, but we can definitely have an impact. I'm fortunate to work with some great people and there are so many positive things happening that it's not always hard to refocus on the big picture. Besides, we have some great opportunities coming up, which hopefully I'll be reporting back on soon!


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