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Picking Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps (My 6th graders)

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Frazzled Educator Donating Member (145 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 04:25 PM
Original message
Picking Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps (My 6th graders)
We hear alot from the Republicans and the conservative shouting heads about "no hand outs," "why should my tax dollars support someone's laziness," "I made it with government help" and "these lazy people need to pull themselves up by their boot straps like people in the past did." Every time I hear one of these people I am driven to a near blind, violent anger.

I teach in one of the most impoverished areas in the country (on the border in Yuma, Arizona). There, an Associate's Degree is enough to be considered highly educated. A majority of the people barely passed high school and the ones that did don't have the ability to expand on that. According to the ideas set forth by Abraham Maslow, most of the people in Yuma, Arizona (and the surrounding areas of Wellton, Somerton, Gadsden and San Luis) are somewhere between the bottom and the 3rd layer. In fact, most are in the bottom two. Here is a picture of Maslow's Pyramid:


Why do I bring this up? I teach 6th grade. Of the 22 students in my class, 11 guardians don't speak English. I use guardian over parents for reasons I will state later. Of those 11, 6 are single. One of my student's father is no where to be found, his brother is in a gang and he is desperately clawing for a father figure. There is so much anger in him that he is repressing that you can tell every smile he makes is a fake, hurt smile. Another of the students doesn't have the ability to read because Mom is never home to teach her. She's in 6th grade with the reading level of a 2nd grader.

My students, most of them, have developing in them, or is already there what I call "The Hole." You can see it. . .damaged goods, damaged esteem, fractured egos and low self-worth. No one rips these kids apart more than these kids.

"Why should I try? I'm only going to fail anyway!"
"Teacher, can you read this? I know it sucks, but do you like it?"

Those turn into:

"It's too hard. I don't care."

And this happens because of the world around them. Children, unlike what the Republicans want to believe, are very perceptive of certain things. They know when they're being lied to, they know when their being misled, they know when someone is being fake, and they know when someone is insulting them. Day in and day out, all these students hear, see and are made to believe is they are worthless.

TV news in Yuma always interviews people who have a negative view of children. "Kids these days are awful. They have no respect. They have no values." Police in Yuma County treat these children like convicts waiting to happen. There is a very well known instance of Yuman preferential treatment of the police. Hispanic, non-English speakers and minorities have a 70% greater chance of going to jail for a routine stop than whites. The border patrol and customs office treats these kids are future coke mules and their actions and words dictate to the kids that no one trusts, believes or cares for them.

Yuma County imposed a curfew on these children. What does that tell the kids? "We know you're going to break the law, so if we catch you on the street, we'll arrest you and give you a criminal record."

My students, as do most students, want to succeed, but look at the deck stacked against them. Most of my students (with the exception of 1) are any combination of poor, minority (mostly Mexican, but I have one Native American and one African American), from uneducated families who don't speak English. And the times that I hear Limbaugh and his ilk come out and say "minorities chose to be this way" makes me wish there were no assault laws.

My students' parents made mistakes, maybe. Most of my students' parents are immigrants from Mexico. One is from Columbia, one Ecuador. Their parents have been told "you're Mexican, you're hispanic and your place is at the bottom." And so The Hole begins.

These students see their parents struggle to stay afloat and demand their kids to do in school.

My kids see the local drug dealer with a "phat" ride and money and The Hole grows. "He's not going to school and he's got money, respect and a good life. Why should I care?"

My students know my salary. They know my earnings (and I'm starting a PhD soon). They see the local Coyote and his money and think "my teacher has an education and doesn't make much. Why should I care?"

Their pop culture idols don't have educations and they think "Why should I care?"

Around them, ignorance and illiteracy is glorified, so they think "why should I care?"

Finally, they are told by politicians, police, government, society in general and social services that they are worthless. "Why should I care about education?"

All of this is the product of a sick society. That sick society needs these kids to fail because if they don't, there will be no scapegoats anymore. Conservatives need to make minorities into criminals, or else they won't have a way to scare people domestically (leaving terrorists out). Nothing hurts more than the sting of failure to a child, but to compound that failure with the attitude that "you're expected to because you're a worthless (enter minority)," that failure creates The Hole.

Add to it the lack of love and support for whatever reason inside the house, the emotional detachment of most teachers (since administration tells us not to be the students' friends, which I partially agree with), the lack of community in their communities where the gangs and the drug problems (another symptom) pop up, the lack of support and dignity from the community, the selfishness of people who don't care about these kids (and believe the understand "free will" and they have a choice), the environment they live in and that Hole, by 7th grade, is huge. Anger, resentment, self-loathing, self-hatred all leading to the inevitable endgame. . .self-destruction. A continuing cycle of wanton self-destruction of our minorities. . .all because society believes they are worthless because they are black, or mexican, or immigrants or can't speak English.

My students deserve better, but "they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps." How can people pull themselves up by their bootstraps when the society they are apart of continually denies these people access to the boots?

My students aren't failures, as Limbaugh and the neo-cons need them to be. . .they have been forgotten because they are an insult on the "American" persona and the "American Dream." The poor and the homeless too. . .insults on the "Land on Prosperity." Sadly, those who are affected by this attitude to most are my students. So the cycle continues.

Maybe someday my students and their families can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, so long as the boots are a false hope and an empty promise.
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GreenPartyVoter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 04:34 PM
Response to Original message
1. *hugs* Bless you for being there for these kids.
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pstans Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 04:40 PM
Response to Original message
2. Great post
I am a teacher also. I teach 2nd grade in Iowa and have 9 out of 22 Hispanic students (including one who speaks no English). My students come from a wide range of backgrounds and range from reading levels from beginning of Kindergarten to 4th grade. This which makes teaching very interesting.

I never made the connection between Maslow's Hierarchy of neeeds and politics. It makes a lot of sense.

Keep up the good work.
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Frazzled Educator Donating Member (145 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:19 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Sometimes the educational philosophy meets the political philosophy
very well.
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AnneD Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:36 PM
Response to Reply #3
25. I have worked ...
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 05:37 PM by AnneD
as a school Nurse in a large urban setting. I LIVE in Maslow's hierarchy of needs and from where I stand the links between poverty, class, education, and expectations are very clear. These kids deserve the very best we can give them. If we don't get them out of this cycle, it perpetuates and we will end up with a permanent underclass.

I prefer to work in the elementary school. They come to school with such a love of learning. There is so much eagerness and joy. I work had to keep that joy alive. I cling to the hope that one teacher (or Nurse) might say the right thing or do something and inside the kid's mind-a light turns on and they realize they can do it too. I try to praise the parents too. It's hard to do the best you can when you have so much working against you.

Matthew 6:21 states: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where our treasure lies. The kids know it-sense it. We don't value them or those that try to educate them. Yeah, some of these folks talk big and go for the photo ops with kids...but it is window dressing, just like their funding.

The best reward I could ever have would be to see some of my kids make it out. It's that hope that keeps me going.
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bobbieinok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:22 PM
Response to Original message
4. when I was teaching at a conservative Xn college
I'd hear students, staff, and teachers argue against public schools and for Xn schools or home-schooling.

I'd often say 'If you really care about children, pray for the teachers in the public schools that they can keep strong and help the children who often have so much against them. If you want to do something as an individual or a group, adopt a class in one of the local schools and see what you can do, tutoring or whatever else is needed.'

(When my brother was teaching in a local grade school in an 'at risk' area, his tales about the problems his kids brought to school and the resulting diminishing amount of time he had to 'teach the subjects' were horrific.)

Some heard and maybe some took some action.
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:31 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. Amazing what it takes for "christians" of that stripe to drop their
judgemental 'tudes, eh?

You'd think, of all people, they would know not to judge....

:eyes:
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:27 PM
Response to Original message
5. These kids have one thing in their favor---
Edited on Sun Oct-08-06 05:29 PM by bobbolink
YOU!

Thank you so much for your level of caring! What an inspiration you are.

What these kids are going through ... :cry:

You are so very right about Maslow--I was talking about this with someone this week. Expecting people to "make it" when they don't have basic needs met, especially children, is just foolish. Also heartless!

I'd really like to know what happened to 'Murkins to damage their hearts so terribly. Europeans aren't this heartless, for the most part. What the heck is wrong in this country for people to be this angry all the time, and this uncompassionate?

What is wrong with us?

I'll be thinking of you, and your kids. I'll also, with your permission, share your words with some friends. This needs to change!

:yourock: :pals:
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Frazzled Educator Donating Member (145 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:42 PM
Response to Reply #5
9. Please, by all means.
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stepnw1f Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:36 PM
Response to Original message
7. Thanks for Doing What You DO
I believe "Society" is one teacher away from imploding.
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:44 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Sadly, I'm afraid you're on target.
Hmmm, could we form some sort of "Teacher Appreciation" corps here at DU?

Really, this post is so very moving, and I know this teacher represents so many others.

Not even a flower emoticon to offer... sigh...

:applause:
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distantearlywarning Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:42 PM
Response to Original message
8. Terrific post. n/t
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babsbunny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 06:08 PM
Response to Original message
11. Wow!
Thanks for your post! :hi:
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jwirr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 06:16 PM
Response to Original message
12. My sister taught special ed in a NY school. She had an average
of 14 children who were one step away from going to jail. She was not only their teacher, she had to become a mother-figure, a paralegal, a doctor, a psychologist and just about anything these kids needed. Some of her class had been diagnosed with mental illness but most were kids who had been sexually abused or just came from dysfunctional families. The pugs are just plain stupid when it comes to social issues of any kind. God bless all of you who teach our children.
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Nikki Stone 1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 06:30 PM
Response to Original message
13. Hard to pull the bootstraps when you don't have boots
Kick and REcommend
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TheBaldyMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 06:58 PM
Response to Original message
14. K&R'd Excellent Post
It's scandalous. Republicans talk about 'boot-strapping' and they are being led by a pampered blue-blood born with a silver spoon in his mouth who does everything he can to provide corporate welfare for his rich cronies.

To listen to those idiots you'ld think it was the kids fault for not being born into the American Plutocracy.
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tomreedtoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 10:51 PM
Response to Original message
15. And where were the Democrats to call attention to these people?
Undoubtedly about the same place most Democrats are; still shivering in their boots.

That's what angers me the most. The "No Kids Left Behind" program was a fraud, and the Democrats were afraid to call attention to it. So was the war in Iraq, so was the response to September 11 enforced on travel. And the Democrats did nothing to call attention to it. Because they were scared.

Now that the Republicans are self-destructing, the Pink Tutus will start talking again. I want to see if they talk about people like these impoverished kids. At all.
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AnneD Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:46 PM
Response to Reply #15
26. Actually...
the NCLB Act was one of the first betrayals the GOP did. Ted Kennedy backed it because it was to be funded and have a lot of things he wanted in the bill. This was the brief few months after Dubya was elected...when he spoke to the Dems up front, instead of behind their back. When Kennedy saw how much was cut, he tried to salvage as much as he could, but it was over-he had been scammed. Kennedy hasn't had much to do with Bush since.
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tomreedtoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-10-06 04:52 PM
Response to Reply #26
27. So Kennedy "shunned" Bush? How effective!
How ruthless! How determined he was to attack Bush! He stopped going to Bush's place for high tea! That'll teach him not to invade Iran!

Now, we all know that Kennedy can be cowed with the single word "Chappaquidick," if he ever starts fighting a Republican in earnest. Unlike most Democrats, he DOES carry enough baggage that he is ineffective as a senator. (I have read and re-read "The Kennedy Imprisonment.") But couldn't he at least counsel other Democratic politicians to do the attacking he doesn't dare do himself?
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OneBlueSky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:19 AM
Response to Original message
16. "You can see it. . .damaged goods, damaged esteem, . . .
fractured egos and low self-worth. No one rips these kids apart more than these kids." . . .

that is s-o-o-o-o-o true! . . .

years ago, I was a specialized foster care provider to troubled teens . . . the organization I worked for took a select group of the toughest kids in the system -- those who had been in constant trouble but had done nothing really violent -- and placed them in homes with individuals or couples they called mentors . . . mentors were paid as full-time employees (albeit modestly) to take one of these kids and give him or her their full attention for anywhere from six to 24 months, depending on the kid . . . the goal of this concentrated kind of attention was to help them become independent, productive, law-abiding citizens . . . since the program cost a hell of a lot less per kid than either group homes or institutionalization, it was an attractive option for the state . . .

anyhow, the second kid who came to live with me arrived on his 16th birthday accompanied by a caseworker carrying a birthday cake . . . they came in, we sat around the kitchen table getting acquainted for 15 minutes, and then the caseworker was off and the kid was my responsibility . . . pretty daunting at the time, let me tell you . . . the first words out of his mouth after the caseworker left were "I wanna tell you right now, I'm not going to school!" . . . (to which I replied something like "Whoa . . . how 'bout a 'Hi, nice to meetcha first?" . . .

reviewing this kid's records and talking with him revealed that he'd been in constant trouble since he was about eight years old -- or half his young life . . . everything from stealing to drugs to bullying to acting out sexually (but, as I said, no history of real violence) . . . (his latest -- the reason he was coming to live with me -- was stealing a bread truck in Massachusetts and driving it, with a friend, to Disneyworld in Florida, where they were nailed after running a stop sign) . . . and for most of those eight years, every adult in his life -- family, caseworkers, group home staffs, foster parents -- everyone had told this kid what a rotten person he was, and that if he didn't shape up, he'd be in jail or dead before he was twenty . . .

now, when you're a pre-adolescent, and every adult in your life constantly tells you what a rotten kid you are, you're going to end up believing it . . . after all, these are the adults charged with your care, right? . . . so they must know what they're talking about, right? . . . which means that, hey, you really are a rotten kid, a bad person . . .

when a kid grows up believing that he's a bad person -- because everyone has told him so, over and over and over -- well, by god, the kid is going to live up to those expectations! . . . ("They want a bad kid? . . . Well, I'll give 'em a bad kid!") . . . he'll keep acting out and getting into more and more trouble -- usually progressively worse trouble -- until he is indeed either in jail or dead . . . it's a self-fulfilling prophesy, perpetuated by those charged with his care . . .

after knowing thus kid for only a short time, I determined that he was NOT a rotten kid or a bad person . . . he was actually a pretty good kid -- amiable, outgoing, great sense of humor, eager to learn -- who life had shit on repeatedly . . . and who, after being shit on repeatedly, had made a lot of really bad decisions about "who to be" and how to behave . . . and for the next two years, I spent my time convincing him of that fact . . .

convincing this kid that he was, in fact, a good person who had merely acted badly was an enormous challenge, and it really did require my full time attention over a two year period . . . but ya know something -- it worked! . . . the kid got a job in a wood shop, which he ultimately held for almost a decade before moving on to something else . . . he met a really nice girl, they had a kid together, and when the kid was about three, invited me to a beautiful church wedding (the kid was the flower girl) . . . they eventually bought their own house, fixed it up, and sold it for a nice profit before moving on to something better . . . they even invited his father, from whom he'd been estranged for years, to come live with them, relax, and enjoy his golden years playing with his granddaughter . . . he still stays in touch regularly, and I can''t tell you how proud I am of all he's accomplished . . .

and all it took was undoing the damage that state child "services" had done to him over half his life . . .
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grace0418 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 04:14 PM
Response to Reply #16
22. FANTASTIC POST! This should have it's own thread as well. Thank you
for posting and bless you for your hard work. You made a difference!
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Bluerthanblue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 04:56 PM
Response to Reply #16
23. YES- please post this on it's own-
you and "Frazzled Teacher" and others on this thread- really REALLY get it.

Thank you for giving hope- giving clear testimony of truth- truth this country and world needs to hear-
It begins with the seedlings- you are essential in helping create a more hopeful tomorrow!!

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Broken_Hero Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:24 AM
Response to Original message
17. Nominated...
a very heartfelt post...best one I've read in weeks, to be honest.
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SeattleGirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:28 AM
Response to Original message
18. Excellent post, FE.
I've said for the longest that you cannot "put food on your family", the higher goals in life are going to be far down the list. This is something the Repukes a) do not really get, but b) get just enough to exploit it for their own gains.
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NMMNG Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:40 AM
Response to Original message
19. "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps"
That only works if you have boots in the first place. When you're denied boots based on your race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class (often an accident of birth) or any one of dozens of other factors, it's impossible to pull yourself up by the straps of what you do not have.
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civildisoBDence Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 01:52 PM
Response to Original message
20. If you actually try to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, you'll discover
that the BEST you can do is pull your bootstraps right off your boots. Think about it...the whole metaphor sounds like a sick joke!

Kinda like this:

If you beat your head against a wall, eventually it'll crack.

Fellow educator here...nice use of Maslow. I teach college for a whopping 36K. We're lucky to have the opportunity to self actualize, but only if we can find creative ways to pay the bills.

Satire as thick as a president's skull
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jhain Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:10 PM
Response to Original message
21. "Hole In The World"
EAGLES

"Hole In The World"


There's a hole in the world tonight.
There's a Cloud of fear and sorrow.
There's a hole in the world tonight.
Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

They say that anger is just love disappointed.
They say that love is just a state of mind,
but all this fighting over who will be anointed.
Oh how can people be so blind


There's a hole in the world tonight.
There's a Cloud of fear and sorrow.
There's a hole in the world tonight.
Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

Oh they tell me there's a place over yonder,
cool water running through the burning sand,
until we we learn to love one
another we never reach the promise land.


There's a hole in the world tonight.
There's a Cloud of fear and sorrow.
There's a hole in the world tonight.
Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.
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Bluerthanblue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 05:03 PM
Response to Original message
24. Frazzled as you may
feel, and be-
the work you do is so essential to human KIND-

Never give up- never give in- rest when you need to, but thank god for people like you who get it.

You may never will a Nobel prize, or be on the cover of a magazine- but people who make a difference in the lives of children, people who CARE (and sometimes it hurts like hell to care) do more to improve this world than many of the most famous 'good-doers'-

I'm glad to recommend this thread-
I'm heartened to hear the voices of people who aren't willing to give up- or blame the child for being planted in soil that isn't full of the best fertilizer money can buy.

thank you-!

blu
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aikoaiko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-10-06 05:13 PM
Response to Original message
28. If the parents of your students are treating the kids like junk, there is
very little a teacher can do. Sure, teachers can get to some of the kids and/or hook them up with role models, "big brothers" or "big sisters", or mentors (the latest buzz), but there is only so much that can be done in an eight hour day.

The whole thing depresses me.
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