I had an eleventh-grader, let’s call her Steph, whose mother worked two jobs. Every night, the mom left right after dinner, and Steph was responsible for her younger siblings until she got home at 8:00 the next morning. Our school, located in walking distance, always scheduled first hour off for Steph, so she could look after her siblings until their mom got home and then walk to school. Her mother didn’t have time to drive her children to a variety of schools across the district, and she certainly didn’t have the money to augment a voucher and pay for private schools.
Another year, I had a student I’ll call Jason. It was always a struggle getting him to do any of his work. He was more than resistant—he was downright hostile. On the surface, he could be easily dismissed as lazy and unmotivated. One time, he looked at me and furiously wailed, “Why don’t you just give up on me? Everyone else does!”
I spoke frequently to his parents. They had, indeed, given up. Struggle or not, hostile or not, I kept after him, pushing him to catch up, insisting that he come in and get extra help. He may have looked lazy, but the thing is, he always came in. It may have taken working with him one-on-one three or four times for each assignment, but in the end, he got the work done for me, and he met my demanding standards. He legitimately passed my class.
Where can a child whose own family has given up on him go? He goes to a neighborhood school, where he knows someone still believes in him.
I have so many of these stories, as do many of my colleagues across the district. Kids and families rely on neighborhood schools. With your help, I will make sure we don’t spread our limited resources so thin that a good education becomes inaccessible to kids like Steph and Jason.