While not my biological children, these kids are mine for seven hours every day. I teach at a school for students who don’t ‘fit’ in a public school setting. Every one of these students have been told that they are ‘bad’, a ‘failure’, a ‘never going to graduate’ or ‘a future dropout’. Let me tell you about these kids. From left (I’m using initials only for this) , J, has had some major bumps along the road, is the main source of support for his widowed, Vietnam Disabled Veteran father. He will be the first of his siblings (he’s the youngest) to graduate with a high school diploma. J will finish his coursework next week and is planning on attending the local technical college working toward an electrician certificate. A, has had major trauma in her life included being adopted from a neglectful mother. She is figuring out who she is and continues to struggle, but is making progress. She plans on attending the local community college next fall. N-was an angry, drug addicted, punk who spent time at a wilderness camp in a last ditch effort to keep him out of jail. Two years ago, his parents were at the end of their ropes. Today, N finished his high school requirements early and started college at the local community college. He holds a steady job and in the year that I have known him has come so far and has proven to everyone that if you persevere, you can do anything. N is undecided on his major, but is excited about his future. L-came to us her senior year in hopes of being able to graduate on time. Her father was and is facing major health problems, which has caused her to move several times. She has transformed from a young lady with a chip on her shoulder and a bad attitude and missing high school credits, into one who has caught up her coursework and has made friends and is a joy to be around. L plans to attend cosmetology school next August. D- was told that he was a failure by previous teachers and told that he’d never make it. He has a pretty tough home life and it would be so easy to give up. He plans to pursue game design after high school and is on track to graduate this year with the best grades that he has ever had.
These kids battle learning disorders, anxiety issues, behavior issues and a myriad of other problems that make it difficult to function in larger classes. These kids who are left behind, the kids that are the troublemakers, the kids that have been in jail, the kids that are the forgotten in mainstream classrooms are the ones that are my life’s work.