No classes, no answers

So I caught up with our principal today, to see if the other shoe really would drop.

I had spoken to the school board last week and told them that students new to the country and new to our high school–our most fragile students–were being offered half a schedule. Four classes.

PE? Full.

Music? Doesn’t start over at semester.

Art? Full.

Science? Overfull.

There just are not many classes that can be offered to our lowest students. And this happens every year. Every year. Every year.

I held out hope, because our interim superintendent sent a message to our principal, asking for a list of students without a full schedule and what she was doing about it.

But she told him that she had no money.

And that is the answer.

And every year, the answer is the same: There is no money.

I just don’t get how this is equitable. I don’t understand how we can’t plan for this when it happens every year. We get immigrants coming into our schools, and by November, the classes are full.

And I am so grateful that my country has not fallen apart, forcing me into refugee status. I would feel so helpless.

We’ve not figured out how to deal with the students we have, either. We don’t get to know them. We don’t understand them. We punish them for voting with their feet. For skipping classes they don’t understand.

Maybe if we could take a more pro-active approach, like they do in Oakland. 

It makes me want to go there and work.

If my brothers did not have the cultural capital they have by being white, they were just bad enough that they could have been on the prison track.

It’s not that they were bad kids, it’s just they made poor decisions.

And we had family support at home.

I worry about the students who don’t.

Or who do, and just make poor choices.

And maybe, just maybe, their trauma-filled lives wired them to make poor decisions.

Partner Teacher Suzy sent an interesting article that says just that:

… toxic stress in childhood from abandonment or chronic violence has pervasive effects on the capacity to pay attention, to learn, to see where other people are coming from, and it really creates havoc with the whole social environment.

And it leads to criminality, and drug addiction, and chronic illness, and people going to prison, and repetition of the trauma on the next generation. 

Particularly when we don’t take the time to make connections with students, to make input comprehensible, to contextualize our content, to make life relevant.

And maybe that’s what they are doing in Oakland and what we need to do here:

We haven’t figured it all out in Oakland. We just have the audacity to really call out structural racism.

–Christopher Chatmon, executive director of the Office of African American Male Achievement.

Why can’t we offer quarter classes, so students could start earning credits as soon as they arrive? I was told that students arriving now would be auditing till the end of the year.

Good thing they don’t know that.

They might not show up at all.

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