A couple of weeks ago we went to visit a some of our students on the team. For the intents of this lil' ole blog entry, let's call this 'hood: Shadyville. I'll tell you a wee bit about it so you can feel it out. Shadyville is about three miles from the school. It's divided into two sections: the barely livable and the "to'up" At least half of our students live in Shadyville, and those who live around it, know to go there for their delinquent needs. Some examples of said delinquencies that may or may not take place:
- There is an abandoned home that has turned into a hang-out of sorts for the hoodlums of the area. There's a stale couch, drug paraphernalia, and various other tags that implicate pleasantries. Kids go there for obvious reasons.
- There's this fellow named Paps who lives in Shadyville. Evidently everyone knows Paps and he's a friend to all. I am told that if you need food, drugs, or guns Paps is your man.
- Homes have gotten torched and it turns into a campfire site; witnesses are hushed.
- It has been rumored that the buses don't slow down on some days because of the shenanigans going on at the stops.
Leaving the house and driving around we ran into a couple of other students. You see, word had gotten out that day that we were heading out to Shadyville and tons of the kids had come up to us writing down their addresses so we could stop over.
We ended up spending a couple of hours in the neighborhood, visiting with seven kids and their families (when families were home). The next day it was the talk of the team. And we have a new list of kids that want us to come by to see what their life is all about.
Our motto has turned into: we don't just call home, we go there.
There's a second part to this because I kinda feel passionate about knowing who your students are outside of the classroom. Just like we have bad days, those kids do too. Except most of the time their bad days might not be something in their control. I am not by any means making an excuse for inappropriate behavior in the classroom or blatant disrespect, but it's ALWAYS to find out why that behavior is going on. We have a couple of new teachers this year and they have these idealistic expectations for the students and just don't pay attention to what they're wearing, whether they're clean or not, or really hear what they are saying.
Getting to know the kids and background is not creating excuses for them. Instead, I find it builds trust and rapport. That kid that had problems coming to school? Yeah, he hasn't missed a day yet.