My most important task as a teacher is to teach students to respect themselves and each other. But it is such an uphill battle. The skinhead student that I talked about up there is a prime example of what we are battling. One of his parents is not white. (Amazing, huh.) His parents have made excuses for him since the first grade,everything is somebody else's fault. His parents have no control at all, and when he can easily get drugs from the older ex-con skinhead neighbors, guess who he is going to hang out with? He fully believes that there has to be someone to blame for his families poverty, and rather than look at his dad's unwillingness to work, he looks where he is directed to by his mentors.
Many of my students are told over and over that they are stupid by their parents. I know in my heart that many of them suffer from physical abuse (but don't see anything reportable). One of my students was raped by her stepfather, and Mom can hardly wait for stepdad to be released from jail. Many teachers do the very best thay can, modeling appropriate behavior, teaching simple rules of decorum (like saying excuse me instead of yelling MOVE) and treating students with the dignity and respect that they deserve. But when what they get at home combines with what they see in their own lives and on tv, it seems like we are fighting a losing battle. I feel so discouraged after weeks like this one, but then I have to think about the lesson we did on Wednesday, where we talked about the shootings and the local arrests. We ended the lesson with writing "I can" sentences about how each student can do something to prevent shootings from happening. They came up with some good ones, like "I can be friendly to everyone" "I can quit picking on people" "I can tell bullies that their behavior is unacceptable" "I can support kids who are picked on". One of my gang-banger students wrote "I can NOT bring a gun to school" (Good idea!) I know full well that many of them will forget this lesson by Monday. But I will keep reminding them, and I will keep hoping that something I say will sink in somewhere, sometime.