Breaking the cycle

Before I start, it is my hope that this post does not come across as complaining or not being committed to what I do as an educator. This is intended to be an honest question and, frankly, a cry for help from any and all students, parents, politicians, or whomever.

I was having a conversation with three students (each a female 8th grader) toward the end of the day today (which, incidentally, was the day we gave the reading benchmark – math benchmark is tomorrow). We were talking about how it will be different when they go to the high school next year with the vastly increased population (their middle school has ~500 kids in grades 6-8, the high school will have 2200 in grades 9-12), more schedule flexibility and the like. One of the girls mentioned that both of her older brothers attended the high school but neither graduated. Then another one of the girls said that her older brother also dropped out. I asked what their brothers were doing now (with the stipulation that they didn’t have to answer if they didn’t want to). They each reported that they had steady jobs (didn’t get into detail) and were doing ok.

Both of these young ladies have shown flashes of potential but, more often than not, they are disruptive and have a lax outlook toward completing school. In a moment of candor during the conversation, they said, independently, that they will need to improve their attitude when they get to the high school. I want to do more to help that happen but they see me, and their other teachers, for 54 minutes a day. How can we break the cycle of their family being ok with not finishing high school?

Is it time to finally admit that every student will not (indeed should not) go to a four year university? Is it time to bring back vocational ed courses that start as early as 8th or 9th grade? Is it time to stop requiring that students take courses such as Algebra I when a math class teaching them how to maintain a budget may be much more applicable for what they will do after school? I hope the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.

I try to be a good example to my students. And I’m not even talking about being good at math…math is toward the bottom of the list I want my students to take from me. I want them to set goals for themselves, be curious about their surroundings and just be good to other people. But is that enough? I hope it is, but I don’t think it is. I want to make a difference with these kids but some days I am at a loss of what to do and how to reach them.

But I’ll be back tomorrow, doing what I can.


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