Archive for September 9th, 2007

Kids in America

(originally published on Myspace April, 2006)


I have taught the 8th grade for six years now. I have taught in the same school for all six years. The school I teach in is in an urban area.  95% of my students are African-American, from low socio-economic homes.  They are so smart and funny, but they are unmotivated and lazy.  They are pressured to sell drugs, be in gangs, have sex at an early age and not take school seriously.  It is not “cool” to be smart and make good grades.  Granted, in the 8th grade, not many kids are thinking that college is just four years away.   These students come from some homes that have serious problems.  My students are in gangs, getting pregnant, lying, stealing and cheating. 


They epitomize every horrible thing you see and hear in the news and media about urban black teens. 


Unfortunately, that is only about 20% of my kids.  Granted, most of my kids will NOT go to college, but many will.  Only 50% of the students at Columbia High (which receives my rising 9th graders) graduate from high school.  But, not all of them will end up in jail.  Those that do, give the rest of them a bad rap.  Most of them WILL end up working hard in crappy jobs, living on government assistance and sending THEIR kids to the same schools they attended.


Over the past few years, many of my students have come back to St. Andrews to visit me.  One, Larry, is in the Navy, serving in Bahrain.  He is tall and handsome.  His manners are impeccable.  He has really grown into a great man. 


Another young man came to visit me while he was at the school getting a reference from the social studies teacher he had in 8th grade.  I had to stand on my tip-toes to hug him (which really isn’t all that unusual for me).


I said, “Patrick, what are you up to?”


“I came to get a reference from Mr. Waites.  I am going to USC”, Patrick replied.


“GREAT!  What are you getting a reference for?” I asked.


“Miss Finney.  I am going to be a teacher, because of you. 

Don’t you know?” he said.


That was so sweet!  I had actually influenced him to do something with his whole LIFE.  What an amazing compliment from him.


Another student, Mike Davis, was a star football player in high school.  Now he is playing college ball for USC. 


Shanna and Terrell have been in the newspaper a bunch of times for academics and sports.  They are both going on to college. 


Another student moved to Orangeburg. She is a sophomore taking several senior level classes. 


Two of my former girls just won Miss Congeniality and Miss Junior in the Columbia High Pageant.


Many of my students have entered the military.  This makes me both sad and proud.  They are protecting our country, but they are living in dangerous places and may not come home. 


I am tired of all of the negative press kids get.  Quit giving them so much attention!  Put them on TV when they do great things.  Go find the good stories.  There are just as many as those out there.  My student go to church.  They go to nursing homes and sing.  They work and go to school. They do volunteer work, and not as a condition of parole.  They help their parents with the bills and the younger kids.  They are on the honor roll. They have goals.  They have dreams.  Maybe if we focused on all the great things kids do, more kids would want to do the great things.


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Goin’ To the Chapel


This is one of my favorite stories.


When we were all 23, my childhood friend Debbie got married rather quickly.  No she wasn’t knocked up.  She was marrying a Navy man.  He was being shipped to Hawaii, and they just couldn’t be apart!  They were in love, proposals ensued, and a spur of the moment wedding was underway.


The chapel at Pawley’s Island on the waterway was reserved.  A nice sit down rehearsal dinner and reception was organized.  Another childhood friend, Amy Jo, and I were requested to be bridesmaids. 


The day of the rehearsal we go to Myrtle Beach.  After the rehearsal and much drinking, we go buy our brides’ maid’s dresses.  This is truly one of few brides’ maid’s dresses I have been able to wear repeatedly afterwards.  We got them at J. Crew, I think.  With that out of the way, we got on to the BACHELORETTE party!!  We went back to Deb’s apartment and starting getting ready to go out, doing tequila shots and drinking liquor drinks.  Needless to say, we were getting drunnnk.    We went to some cheesy dance club.  One of our girls passed out in the bathroom as soon as we got there.  We worked to get her awake and out in the car to sleep it off.  Not an easy task for five drunken college girls. 


The wedding was at noon the next day in August in a chapel with no air conditioning.  We stayed out until about 5, and then stayed awake drinking at the apartment until 7 a.m.  (Oh, don’t you judge us!  You know you did that in college! Some of you still do!!) .  We slept until about 9:30.  We begrudgingly got up and started to slowly get ready, showering etc.  Debbie, Amy and I went to another friend’s house to get ready. When we got here, still drunk really, we laid around the house for a while. 


We finally got our acts together and arrived at the chapel about thirty minutes late.  This was before we all had cell phones, so no one knew where we were or if we were even coming.  Debbie’s dad was really pissed off.  We were still tipsy, so we didn’t care.  Debbie, being her usual belligerent self said, “Fuck y’all!  It’s my wedding; I can be late if I want to!”


The wedding started.  There was a cheesy CD player playing the music for the wedding (someone else’s idea, not Debbie’s).  It was unbearably hot! August in South Carolina, at the beach no less, is not a cool, comfortable place to be.  Did I mention that I was wearing high heels, panty hose and a long sleeve dress?  Did I also mention that my hair, at this point was waste length.  If you know me, I have think, curly hair.  Long, thick, curly hair in conjunction with that clothing ensemble results in sweat rivulets down various parts of my body, such as my back, the backs of my legs, my cleavage, my face, my arms pits…


So, the wedding is progressing.  We are all getting a little emotional because Debbie is the first one of our trio to get married.  We’re sad and happy at the same time because she is moving away too.  To help us get a little relief from the heat, we had the sliding glass doors of the chapel open. As I was walking down the aisle, I had dropped my tissue.  I was also at one point given Debbie’s bouquet, so my hands are full.


I got more and more emotional and got a little sniffly.  It didn’t help that we were all a little buzzy still. At one point, while I was sorta crying, a crane flew out of the marsh with a very, very loud RAHWWH  RWAHHW. 


THAT WAS THE LAST STRAW.  That struck my funny bone.  I let out a snort because it tickled me that as Debbie was saying her “I do’s”, this large bird was flying and making  a huge ruckus.  Unfortunately, as I let out this snort my nose was full of snot.  I blew and enormous snot bubble!  The only people to see this bubble were Debbie, Amy and me.  We all got struck so funny, we couldn’t really pay any more attention to the actual vows and ceremony going on around us.  We were all shaking violently.  I am now trying to sniff the snot back up my nose as it is making a slow descent to my lips.  (Keep in mind that my tissues are gone and my hands are full of flowers, so I can’t even do a quick nose rub)  SNIIFFFF. GIGGLE! GIGGLE! SNIFF! SNIFFF! I started tilting my head back hoping that would slow things down.   No luck. Finally, the wedding was over.  I am a sweating, snotty face, sniffling mess who is trying NOT to completely roll on the floor with laughter at the complete absurdity of how all this had turned out. 


To add insult to injury, at the reception, one of the other girl’s in the wedding party pulled my ribbon on the bride’s maid’s cake. The ribbon was attached to a lovely silver charm, each with a special meaning.  I got stuck with the last charm.  A thimble.  The thimblesspecial represention: OLD MAID. 

 To this day Debbie blames me for her divorce, and I blame her for my spinsterhood.

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I am moving all of my blogs to this location.  I am going to be moving older blogs that I have posted on Myspace, so some of you may have already read them.  Please check out my blogs when you get a chance!



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