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View Diary: My teaching adventure continues (70 comments)

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  •  For 4 years I Was a Parent Volunteer (1+ / 0-)
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    at a Houston inner-city, Title I high school (meaning about 95% of the students were on free breakfast/lunch). The Houston school district has a magnet program that allows students to transfer from their neighborhood school to another school to participate in special programs (Gifted and Talented, as well as IT training, healthcare, business, languages, culinary, etc.). My oldest son chose to attend a magnet school that had been labeled a "dropout factory" by Johns Hopkins just 2 years prior to his enrollment. An acquaintance offered her encouraging advice that "at least the SWAT team hadn't been called to the school the year before." But my son and I wouldn't trade anything for those years at  "our" school.

    I was just one of a group of parents whose kids also enrolled that same Freshman year and who were committed to making a difference. Luckily we were welcomed by the administration. We did a LOT of fundraising. But our more important function was to be role models for the kids and be advocates for them where we could. For example, many of the students had never seen a parent volunteer before we arrived. I hope we've left a blueprint for them as they have their own kids. As we got to know the kids on a mom-level, we acted as their representatives. Many times I've stopped in classrooms or talked to asst-principals to explain that X wasn't being obstinate by not bringing books to class, doing homework, or being out of dress code. The problem was embarrassment at admitting that his/her family had been locked out or evicted from their apartment and he/she couldn't get to their belongings. Or the family car had been repossessed with their backpacks still locked inside. Or the student had missed that big test because there had been an unfortunate incarceration/immigration issue and they were scooped up too (right or wrong). Or their mom had moved away with the younger kids and they were couch surfing with friends (yes, I've assisted more than a couple of abandoned 18 year old and younger high schoolers).

    Pretty much all of the kids I met over those 4 years were good kids. Even the kids that appeared to have issues (the one questioned but not arrested for arson, the two arrested for burglary, even the petty pot-dealers) were largely caught in circumstances beyond their young abilities to control and lacked out-of-school support. Housing insecurity, food insecurity, transportation issues, lack of medical care (always the glasses!) are the obstacle course they face every day in trying to obtain an education.

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