The forgotten & hope

I recently read and saw Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire). I have never been so moved, so disturbed, so…reminded.

I’ve mentioned many times before that our students’ lives outside of school have a direct impact to what goes on inside of our classrooms. That’s just how it is. This book reminded me that and so much more.

It reminded me that kids need help. It reminded me that there are some people who don’t care. It reminded me that there are a lot of people who do care. It reminded me that all of our students need to know that they are smart and capable. It reminded me that I must always do whatever I can to help students make that realization. It reminded me that we cannot forget kids…

Especially in the English classroom…because let’s all be honest with ourselves, kids may love coming into your classroom because you are a great teacher, but that doesn’t mean when they leave your classroom their sudden love for English will stick around. After all, what happens when they get a not-so-great teacher who doesn’t care about his/her job as much as you do? (I can personally think back to when I lost my love for English in high school and why…and when/why I gained it back.)

Sapphire’s language was just so…real. (That’s the mark of a great writer, no?) I felt the pain of Precious reading the story. I felt the determination of Blue Rain, her teacher. Some of the lines that stood out to me the most would be the following: “I got an A in English and never say nuffin’, do nuffin’,” “Focus on the ones who can learn.” (what the principal tells Precious’ teacher), “Push.” (the overall theme of the novel based on its title), and “the pages look alike to me.” I’ll let you think about these…however, let me say that I was reminded of hope as well. Hope in that we can help our students be the best they can and believe that they can be the best they can be. And I think that’s huge.

And then I read this. I don’t know what to say. The comments are the most telling part of this post as multiple viewpoints go back and forth. I mean, wow. That’s really all I have. Yes, I’ve worked with students who were so “disturbed” (word choice from teacher in charge) that I was told to not address them in class. They were supposed to be in the alternative ed. school, but it had been shut down. Just let them sit and do their own thing or they would explode, and they were in the classroom for the sole purpose of being “full inclusion,” but don’t “worry” about them. Funny thing is that before I was told about the “disturbed” kids, I called on them (I mean why wouldn’t you engage every kid in the class, right?) and the kids responded with great thoughts!

What makes me sad is that day in class might have been the only time “those” kids were called on. What surprises me is when people look shocked when I say that I was ready to jump straight into inner-city teaching, with the “bad” kids (again, word choice not given by me). I’m reminded…The bottom line is we can’t forget kids. No matter who they are or what label they are given.

I’m not saying I’m an expert with any of this. And I’ve discussed everything here with many of my colleagues who are special educators working with at-risk, disturbed, whatever-label-you-want-to-give-them kids. I just feel there has to be someway, something educators can do to ensure that every kid has hope. That every kid has someone to believe in him/her.

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