Lately, I feel that I really need to take a time out to think about all the things my mind and heart are trying to learn from my students. Does that make any sense? I will try to explain but feel myself about to get caught up in random ramblings rather than anything of importance or clarity….we shall see!
So, this weekend was jam-packed of students. I’m talking jam-packed (I’m trying to think of a good analogy here but nothing’s coming to mind). I, and two other dear co-workers/friends, took ten students to Shakey’s pizza on Friday afternoon for passing all of their classes with above a 2.0 and S’s and E’s in work habits and cooperation! This was an on-going promise throughout the semester and I didn’t realize half of my students would qualify (some couldn’t make the trip)! I was so impressed and we had a great time (I even swindled the guy down to under $100 for the whole party…persistence pays off!) As I went to drop my group of students off, I made sure to leave them literally at their door in the hands of their parents. I mean, really, am I gonna throw a teenager on the streets in South Central at 7pm?! I think not. Anyways, one student had a really big problem with this. She didn’t want me walking her to the door because “her mom is chunty”…whatever that means (watch, it’s probably something really inappropriate I’ve just written forever on this post…). Luckily, I found a parking spot not too far away from her house and was able to lock the remaining two students in the car and walk her up. It turns out that her and her mom are living in a one bedroom trailer that someone might hitch to the end of their truck to take on a camping trip. And it is placed, without wheels, in the front yard of someone else’s home. No wonder she didn’t want me to walk up while the other students would watch. My heart broke a little leaving here there and realizing I would have never known her circumstances otherwise because she presents herself so differently at school. As I re-read that, I am not even sure what I am trying to say. But maybe you know what I mean?
Saturday I picked up a student at 8am to go to a track clinic put on by Malachi Davis at Santa Monica High School. This is my now-famous student, Ladejeisha. She has never been formally trained in her running before but loves running and truly has the athletic build of a runner (she’s somehow now convinced me to form a ‘running’ club afterschool on Wednesdays…she knows how to get things done!). I was so proud of her being thrown in the midst of high school runners and doing just fine. I even left her there to go work out, get ready, and pick up three students from last year. We drove out to get her (and all of the gear she got there!)…she told me how she had been trying to read the signs along the school’s wall and had met a bunch of the other athletes. The five of us then drove to Pasadena to watch a step show put on by a Historically Black College Expo that was going on. And it lasted 3 1/2 hours. Seriously. By then, it was 7:30 and I still wanted to take them to dinner at a decent place. So, after a trip to Island’s, it was 10pm before I got them home! Ooops!
Then comes Sunday morning…I get up at 6:30 to pick up my mentee, Rosalyn. She was chosen to lead her Leadership group’s presentation of their Business Plan for a student store on their school’s campus. I was truly impressed, inspired, and in awe of their performance. They were the only group of all 9th graders and Rosalyn was even told by a seasoned judge that, “she was the best speaker he had ever heard and she needed to hone that skill”. I mean, seriously, this girl is going places! If she wants to. I am proud to be a part of her life. They ended up “losing” that day…meaning they didn’t bring home the $1,000 prize. The grand prize, along with three others, went to Santa Monica High School. Which is a little frustrating on my part knowing all of the resources that are there. However, like I told Rosalyn, you don’t want to win just because of where you live. Watching their reactions was an interesting experience as well. I was proud they kept on their front and were able to clap for the recipients, but I could see the tears stinging their eyes. Rosalyn let loose afterwards, but at least it was around her group rather an in public. It’s all about the when and where, folks! That day wrapped up around 5pm. See what I mean about jam-packed?
Today, a student stayed in during 3rd period to discuss his father with me. His dad is elderly and Leo is the only one at home with him. Leo’s dad has been having a lot of problems with his eyes and Leo has spent the last five days at home taking care of his dad, bringing him to eye appointments (via bus and taxi), and trying to organize further appointments. He is 13 years old and is reading at the 3rd grade level and is put in a position where he is essentially the sole care-provider for his aging father. Leo just kept saying, “I’m just so tired. I’m just so tired”. He is having to cook, clean, bring his laundry to his mom’s house since his dad’s place doesn’t have facilities, coordinate times with the “care taker” he has at times…but who doesn’t always have transportation herself. I just can’t imagine being in this position as a 7th grader. I remember seeing my dad on crutches when I was younger and hiding behind a couch just staring at him because it was so weird to see my dad: someone who was supposed to be invincible and protect me, be in a debilitating position. But, something tells me this is just the beginning of it for Leo. And my heart goes out to him. And the rest of my students and all of the people in this world today who have the weight of the world upon their shoulders and are just trying to make it by. God bless them. Truly and immensely. I don’t know if I could do it, but I sure am glad that each one of them are because I am learning more every day through their example.