Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 11,314
Number of posts: 11,314
That high school Obama spoke at Sunday night? I wanted to tell y’all a few things about it, things that I know for a fact, because I taught there for many years.
The school is 95% minority, largely free and reduced lunch, and about 15-20 percent of students are illegal. More accurately, their parents are illegal and took the students into this country. Some of the illegal nationalities I encountered over the year: Mexican (the stereotype). Guatemalan, Honduran, Salvadoran. Chilean, Peruvian, Colombian. Thai, Cambodian, Filipino, Laotian. Irish, English, Romanian, Greek, Russian, Turkish. Canadian. For various reasons, going “back home” is either impossible or just a very bad idea. I have had students with a 4.6 GPA, weighted with AP and honors classes, taken to the US at the ripe old age of one month, who do not speak any language other than English and cannot get a student loan – students that, had they been born here, would be a senator or president some day.
I have had students that have won awards and scholarships that would make them the envy of anyone here, and students who have gone to colleges that are the envy of the world. Stanford, Harvard, Oxford – the kind of school that means parent can die happy.
On virtually every day, the school lunch is cheese pizza, tater tots, and a fruit pie. That fulfills the FDA requirements. As the most underfunded district in the nation (for years we could say “At least we aren’t Mississippi!”), by law the only place we are allowed to profit from students is school lunch. We charge the federal government something like eighty cents for a lunch that costs us twenty-five. Walking in the door at lunchtime would kill poor Michelle.
In a given year, about 15% of the girls will get pregnant and carry a baby to full term. Even so, abortions are very common. The school district in Las Vegas is made up of seven Mormon housewives, elected largely because people assume that women will somehow be better for schools, as if the presence of ovaries automatically blesses someone with simple common sense (and no, I’m not one of those MRA assholes). As a result, the District’s sex education policies are set by a selected subcommittee made up of six other Mormons, even more conservative than those democratically elected. In the 90s, the board refused to allow Schindler’s List to be seen by high school seniors with parental permission, and still refuse to allow us to even show clips of a PG-13 movie shown to any student for any reason (I promise you, Shakespeare was meant to be seen, not read).
As a result, I have allowed students to bring their own children into the classroom. I have personally bottle-fed and changed a diaper while I was teaching a classroom of 30-50 other students how to read; I don’t want any teenage mother to use their baby as an excuse to not graduate. One coworker went to a student’s house to get said student to take the high-stakes test. That employee ended up administering the proficiency exam while the student was in labor, then taking the student to the hospital to give birth. The mother of the student wasn’t a bad parent, but she had other kids, too, and if she’d left work she would have been fired. When one of my students gave birth, which was fairly often, I never missed an opportunity to go to their home and give them their make-up work. More than once I stayed and helped with a newborn while I also helped with homework. One of my favorite teaching-memories is hanging out with a girl while bottle-feeding that girl’s baby, discussing some of the intricacies of All Quiet on the Western Front, while my daughter and her youngest sister played Barbies on the kitchen floor.
That number above was not a typo. I have spent an entrire school year with a fifty-minute period of fifty-five students, all of whom were below grade-level, and attempted to teach them how to read.
I have separated Bloods from Crips. I have confiscated weed pipes, crack pipes, meth pipes, syringes, and god-only-knows how many pills. I have assisted the police in taking a gun away from a student. I have taken knives away from students. Once, I was told to take the student back to class because I had not followed the proper disciplinary procedures; I had not assigned detention and called his parents before he pulled a knife on another student.
I have fed a dozen students a day. I have provided beds and other furniture for their homes. I have been to many of their homes, and turned down the crack and/or meth that was offered me (heroin people apparently don’t like to share).
One of these kids lived with a meth addicted uncle because living with a cocaine addicted father was worse. He had his daughter at thirteen. He is literally the only students I tried hard to not join the military, because his life was so hard (I’m not including the details) that Afghanistan was literally a better option than life after graduation – and by god I made sure he took every extra class he needed to graduate. Years later, and actually in Afghanistan and getting shot at, he still Skypes with my wife once every week or two to let us know that he’s alive and he’s bored. He wants to be a teacher when he gets out. I love him like he was my son.
I can show you the places in the school where the bullet holes have been painted up. At one time that school was known as “Drive-By High.” Once, one of my freshman once shot another freshman in the foot, on the last shot of a fourteen round clip. He was a good kid, except he was short and got picked on because of it. A former student stabbed another former student for no apparent reason, and the bleeding man managed to stagger back onto campus before he died. Most of the teachers I know have been to student funerals, but I seem to have been to far more of them.
One of the big newspapers did an article last year on the worst zip codes in America: the residents of two of the top twenty worst zip codes send their children to the school Obama spoke at last night.
I’m not going to talk about Arne Duncan here; it would get me, after eleven years, banned at DU.
That having been said: in a few days I will be voting to re-elect President Obama. Though I don’t always agree with him 100%, he is the best choice for this nation. I hope you will get out the vote.
Posted by Nevernose | Mon Oct 1, 2012, 09:38 PM (55 replies)
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