It was one of those mornings when I am awoken from a dream by my own tears. it is a sign that once agIn, I am carrying my students not just in my heart but in my head and psyche. The student who brought me to tears is not “mine” any longer. Its been two years since that was officially true. We know, however, that they are always ours.
This is the student who asked me why I was breaking up our “family” at the end of the year. I didn’t know why then, and I am even more uncertain now. She lives on the precipice, this young woman. She is twelve and looks sixteen. Her parents were deported four years ago, along with most of her siblings who were not born here. She lives with an aunt and uncle and one sister. She is brilliant. She is inspiring. She is at risk of failing, of becoming a statistic on the wrong side of the equation. And I feel helpless.
I catch only glimpses of her now. When I saw her briefly yesterday and had a moment to look her squarely in the face, I asked her the usual, innocuous-sounding question, “How are you?” She knew better than to give me a trite reply. She knew I was asking for real. “Mostly good,” was her reply. I knew better than to be satisfied with that. “What is good and was the bad?” was my follow-up. She answered as I suspected she might, “Grades still good, but I am getting in a lot of trouble.” I looked harder at her, my eyes asking the next question. “My friends.” So I ask, “Are these friends who will support you and encourage you on your path to law school or try to keep you from your goals?” “They will keep me from my goals.” At that moment our time for catching up was over. I hugged her tight and told her, “I am coming for you.” She smiled at me and replied, “Okay, Mrs. Gyore.” I had promised her I would be relentless, and I have not been as constant in her life as I know I should be. It’s that thing that dogs teachers – time.
So I go back to her question, which was specifically “Why did you turn us into a family if you were only going to break us apart?” It was a punch in the gut at the moment, and now it just haunts me. Why DO we do that? Does every school do that – mix students up year after year instead of building on the community that has been established? What is the pedagogy behind that? What would happen if we kept students together as much as possible, and their teachers worked as team from Kindergarten throughout elementary school? What could we affect if we were accountable to these students througout their time with us?
This would be especially challenging where I teach. Our transiency rate is very high, but has lowered over the past two years. However, I would argue that re-thinking how we view articultion is even more important, not less, in this scenario. I just wonder, if there were six or seven teachers working as a team to ensure the success of our students and they had the stability of this tight community, what could we do? What if classes were created to meet the needs of students instead of teachers? I think its time for a “pinks and blues” burning party. What do you think?