One of the most pressing issues on my radar is education. As a mother, it concerns me. As an educator, it concerns me. As a taxpayer, it concerns me. Education is the key. I know that is cliche, but it is absolutely true. The best way to help someone is to provide them with an opportunity, and we are fortunate enough to live in a country where the opportunity of education is a right. It actually hurts my heart that this opportunity, this right, is often taken for granted.
I remember working with a high school student a few years ago. He was 18 years old and in the 10th grade. He was so truant that if he missed one more day, just ONE MORE DAY, of school, he would go to jail. Not get fined. Not get community service. Not got to Juvie. He would get cold hard time in actual jail. Pretty high stakes.
Now, I barely knew this student, I didn't know him at all compared to the other students in the small classes at the alternative school. Now, finally, here he was, and he wasn't going anywhere unless he wanted a one-way ticket to the slammer. I wanted to know what made this kid tick. What the heck was so bad about school that he never wanted to come?
So, I asked him. "What's your deal, Truancy Boy? Why don't you ever come to school?" I didn't actually call him Truancy Boy, of course, but I felt the need to protect his identity in this forum. I was shocked by his response. He replied, "You just don't get it, do you? School is pointless. I am going to end up just like my parents. Losers."
Wow. He was right. I didn't get it. I didn't get how nobody had ever told him that he could be somebody. I didn't get that he felt so hopeless. I didn't get it that every message that was ever sent to him was that he was destined for loser-dom. This kid had no spark left. He actually, truly thought that he would end up living in a dirty trailer drinking cheap canned beer for the rest of his life. Nobody had ever bothered to tell him any different. So, so sad. There is nothing worse than cheap canned beer.
This was one of the turning points of my career as an educator. From this point forward, I wanted to "get it". And more than that...I wanted my students to "get it". I wanted to transform them from apathetic victims to successful, contributing members of society. Truancy Boy let it slip that he was interested in computers, and by the time he graduated from high school, he had also earned his A+ certification. He was no longer a Truancy Boy...he was now a Tech Guy. I would venture to guess that he moved himself straight out of that trailer and only drinks bottled microbrews.
So, that is the true story of one student who did not fall through the cracks. But what about all of the other students? What can we do to reach them? How can we prevent our children from feeling this apathetic? We need to raise the bar. We need to expect more from ourselves (especially if we are parents), expect more from our schools, and expect more from our children.
So, where do we go from here? How do we expect more out of our citizens when they aren't expecting much from themselves? How do we break the cycle? Where do we start?