I taught high school English for two years and a high school job and life skills class for another year. I also did a year long school social work internship in an elementary school and an alternative junior high/high school. And in the next few weeks, I’ll be (hopefully!) starting a job as a counselor at a residential facility for adjudicated teens (ie, court-ordered). So, I know a thing or two about being in the classroom.
There’s all kinds of stuff out there, from books to movies, about feel good, inspirational stories in the classroom. Michelle Pfeiffer inspired poor gangsta kids to care! Jaime Escalante (who actually is one of my heroes) taught poor gangsta kids calculus! Sister Whoopie Goldberg inspired poor gangsta kids to love life through singing!
Yeah, teachers and faculty do teach and inspire kids every day. Lots of our kids are success stories, like a student in my remedial reading class who went on to college. But for every kid that succeeds, there’s a line behind him of kids who either don’t succeed (but don’t fail), or who do fail. And a lot of times, teachers don’t even know it because that kid we’ve been trying to help leaves our lives, leaving us to worry and wonder what happened.
It’s about a boy I had in my high school class, R, who told me one day that he didn’t know the alphabet. So I worked with him and he made great progress – and then he left. That was twelve years ago, and I sometimes wonder what happened to him. Did he find another teacher to help him continue to learn to read? Did he drop out of school to work in the fields with his family? Did he get deported back to Mexico?
I’ll never know, and as much as I might have wanted to give Alejandro in the story a happy ending, it wouldn’t be fair to R.
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About Us, Together:
Six stories about the problems teenagers face, from relationships and unplanned pregnancy, to absent parents and poverty, loosely based on stories and students E.D. Martin encountered while teaching at-risk kids.
“The stories are easy to read, well-crafted, and deal with human issues in a sensitive way.”
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Thursday Things is a weekly-ish feature highlighting little known facts, ideas, and stories behind my stories. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know!