Repairing our youth...

Recently in our community (the school community), a vital organization that gave our students a place to go after school had to close due to a lack of funding...As a result things have been a little crazy. The Boys and Girls Club has committed to take over and reopen, providing crucial services to our low income community. Hundreds of our students go here after school to play basketball, get help with their homework, hang out with friends and so forth. The uneasiness of the situation has definitely impacted our community this week. At school we have had unrest, students acting out both in and out of school, and general chaos. As teachers, we normally begin to prepare for Spring at this time where love is in the air and it is harder and harder to sit when the sun is shining. Needless to say, the Spring attitude is seeming to come early this year. I feel like I've been trying to just tie the kids down.

I think of our students (and so many others like them across the nation and the world), who struggle daily just to get their basic needs met. They eat at school and interact with possibly the only adults they may see for the day. Now, I realize that this is a broad generalization, but many of our parents are working two jobs and may not be available for our students. Many of our students are the primary childcare for their siblings.

As we have students who need more and more attention, love, education, our job gets harder and harder. We are no longer just educators, there to teach a subject...we are disciplinarian, mother (or father figure), counselor, motivator, and sometimes...teacher. Students look to us for more and more in a system that is broken. Many parents are looking to us to fix it all. Their child's lack of reading skills, math skills, behavior issues, poor choices. We cannot do it all.

I want to help my students. If I had unlimited funds, I would help more, scholarship them, give them extra opportunities they are not afforded. I am tired and our system is being developed by those that are not in the classroom. Expectations have been risen, but there are not funds to support them. Students needs smaller classes, home bases, teachers that are able to build long term relationships with them. I look at a group that I began working with when they were in 7th grade. Many of them still come to school weekly to get help...sometimes they just come to see me. I love watching them grow up into young men and women. I am invested in their future...

We need to look at the overall solution in this country. We compare ourselves to Finland and other countries who have exceptional school systems, but we must remember that schools in the US are now expected to pick up the slack where family has fallen short. We want children who grown into whole adults and many of them are not getting those opportunities...These children are being bashed from all sides and many are not making it...we are leaving them behind.

As a society we need to look at our system and fix it. Children need to be mindfully included in how decisions are made for them..they need to be participants. This is our one chance through this life...for me, this is the one career I have chosen. I need to do all I can, while I am here, but I also need to care for myself. This seems to be an area where many teachers are failing, especially when working with students of poverty...

We want to make this world a better place, equip the children with more knowledge...encourage them to follow their dreams, but we are tired. We are carrying the education system on our backs, more and more being asked and careers on the line if we are not adequate. We need to take our broken system and open it up, look what is inside, and glue the parts together that are broken. We need to make the schools part of the communities, not only education the whole child, but provide opportunities to educate the whole families. If we want to change things, we need to start one school at a time. Trying to overhaul the system without buy-in from students and families is useless...In order for growth to take place and futures to be build, we must grab the tools we need, and do it together. Repairing our youth is hard work...we can't do it alone...but together, we can build great things.

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