I had an epiphany last week and it kind of took me by surprise: my students will always be in the same age group every year I teach. It doesn't matter if I continue to mature or get old, they will still be the same. That's kind of discouraging. I can't just one day decide I'm sick of having the "school is important for your future" conversation or the "life sucks for everyone, you just have to push yourself" conversation. In this age group, everybody thinks their problems are simply the worst.
"No one has problems like me, Mista. You don't know me."Sometimes, depending on the student, I really just want to respond with:
"I don't want to know you, brah. Can you please just do your homework? Thanks."I really like this one too:
"Mista, what would you know about problems at home?"Nothing. You missed the first day of school where I talked about my own problems so you could you know, relate and shit.
Teenagers. Everything is a god damn competition. Whose life sucks more? Hey kids: this isn't something you should want to win. And even if you do have it the worst, what exactly do you win? No students in our school give sympathy points. They're too busy thinking they still have it the worst. The only option you have is perseverance. Come to school, take care of your shit, do what you have to do and get on your way. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Okay, maybe that was little too much ranting. I understand life is tough, especially if my students have no one at home to truly push them and no examples at home to live by. Sure, there might be a few gems that rise from the ashes of a broken home, but they are outliers. They're the best students I'll have and some of them are going to break the cycle of abuse and poverty. I just can't help but wonder though if the "real" work for me should lie with the students who won't do that. How can I work with them if their attendance is less than 50%? I can't just halt the curriculum until everyone shows up, that's absurd. In the grand scheme of things, Integrated Algebra is just not that important if you're living in a shelter by yourself and working part time to support yourself. Or is it? Okay, it's not.
So for now, I'll stick to having the same old conversations with these kids, if and when they ever show up. Of course, they're teenagers and the last thing they want to hear is someone else telling them what they should or should not do. In that case:
School is terrible for you. I forbid you to go there anymore.