This would probably be a fun title if I was talking about my senior year of college, but I’m not. I’m talking about my eighth graders.
The majority of the students at the school I am teaching at come from less than ideal home situations. Almost all of my students are in extreme poverty and come from single parent households. I have 15 year old students who live on their own. I have one eighth grader who told me here mom is 22 years old. I have a 15 year old student who has a 2 year old son. And I currently am teaching a pregnant eighth grader. To say that some days I go to school and am appalled at the things I hear and see would be an understatement.
In the schools I’ve been in back in the United States most students have some type of goals they are working toward, whether it is college, the military, or even simply not being grounded by their parents in their near future. These goals form a type of respect in the school system. Students know that acting up in class will have a negative effect in their life. There universities will get notice that they got suspended or, if they aren’t aiming for college, they know there will be a type of punishment when they get home. Students tend to have a respect for the school, the teachers, their peers (for the most part, I know we are still talking about teenagers here).
As much as this school tries, any type of punishment here is highly difficult. My students are not planning on going to college, they don’t have any type of stable household that notices their misbehavior at school, and they only show up to school for the free breakfast and to see their friends.
When I first arrived and saw students messing around with no punishments I was shocked. Why aren’t the teachers doing anything, that student just hit you with a water balloon? How can the director just let this happen? I was told by one of the more season teachers at the school that she watches all the new teachers come in and feel like they can help, but after a while they realize that nothing is to be done. So they just let it go.
These students don’t have the same type of respect for the school and the people in it as the students in the United States do because they do not have these major goals. If they get sent to the director’s office their life will not change in any type of way. What type of punishment can I give to a student who truthfully doesn’t care? Nothing seems to be getting through and that makes my job extremely difficult.
Students come to class without their textbooks fifty percent of the time. Between 3 and 6 students out of classes of thirty complete their homework each day. They run around, scream, pop balloons, and play games while people are teaching. Students don’t work during class time and think it is a joke if a teacher actually confront them about their actions. We are getting to the point where three of the eighth graders this week were openly getting drunk in class and the teacher didn’t notice until the boy physically passed out and had to be carried off by four of his classmates.
How are these students supposed to value their education if they are in a class where a teacher cannot pay enough attention to even tell when they are drunk? When the teachers don’t care if they pass or fail because they just pick the best grades of the semester to record and show the administrators? When the teachers don’t push them to do their best? Or when the teachers feel that it is impossible to make any kind of change in the school?
This week I was frustrated with my students. They were late to class, they were passing notes to their friends instead of listening, they were having water fights in the bathroom, and they were getting drunk on school property. But honestly, should I be mad at them or should I mad at the teachers that sit there and watch without moving a muscle?
I am only at this school for three months. It is very difficult for me to make changes in three short months. But some of these teachers have been here for years and just let it slide. They talk about the terrible education system this country has and how they want change but instead of doing anything I sit at their desks and knit while their students keep on with the shenanigans.
I have learned a lot about education in the past years. I have been show what good teachers look like and I have been given opportunity to know exactly how to act in a classroom and I have learned by people who have set good examples for me. But sometimes seeing the opposite is the best learning experience you can ever receive. I now know exactly what it looks like to give up hope on an education system, on a school, and even on the students and it is heartbreaking.