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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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