It's well documented that I hate my job (my teaching job-- I still enjoy my waitering job). I'm not sure, a lot of days, if I can make it to the end of the school year.
I teach at an "alternative" high school. It's the last-chance high school, filled with young adults (17-21 years old) who have dropped out of schools, been kicked out of schools, or been told by a judge that they can avoid jail time by enrolling in high school and getting their diploma. We're contracted out to the Chicago Public School system-- a "charter school."
It's pretty damned frustrating. Sometimes I read JR's blog just to remind myself that it could be worse-- JR teaches high school in a Michigan prison, and somehow amidst working with murderers, robbers, prison system bureaucrats and other sociopaths, retains his wit and perspective. But a lot of days, I just dread coming in. I'd planned for this to be temporary-- I'd expected to make it to the summer, where I can go back to school and start working on other plans.
Once in a while, though, I'm reminded that we're actually doing something that might make a bit of difference for a few young people here. I wrote about this a bit-- something that I took for granted, graduating high school, is a huge hurdle for a lot of kids, and even if we got only a few of them moving forward in life, that's something.
There's one guy I take the time to talk to and encourage. His name is Raoul. He's 20 or 21, and has never attended high school regularly. He's a husband and father-- one kid and one on the way. By his own admission, his priorities weren't smart when he was younger. Maybe it was becoming a father, but something clicked with him-- he gets it. He comes in, gets his work done, and is cooperative and friendly. He helps the custodian do repair work at the school. In addition to full-time attendance here, Raoul goes to night school to get more credits. He wants his high school diploma.
He's in my 2nd period Biology class, at 9:20. Today, I took 5 minutes or so to go over the assignment with the class, and set them to work. I'd forgotten to write the date on the board, and someone asked the date. I told them "March 15--" and added "Beware the Ides of March!"
I saw Raoul's eyes light up with recognition-- that "I've heard that before" look. I sensed a "teachable moment." I told him that it was from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," and told him how Caesar had returned to Rome a conquering hero, and become emperor, but the Roman Senate feared his power.
"Yes, I learned about that in Mr. Tobin's class!" (World History), he said, excitedly.
"So the Senate decides they've got to kill Caesar, and for that to work, his best friend Brutus has got to join in. After all the other Senators have stabbed him, Caesar looks to Brutus"
"And then he stabbed him too! And then he said something...," Raoul added.
"Et tu, Brute? You too, Brutus?"
As maddening as my job can be, there are little flashes of light. We took a young man with an uncertain future in and taught him a little history and a little Shakespeare, and even a little Biology. Raoul, I'm certain, will eventually get his high school diploma. Having a high school diploma will be his ticket out of poverty. We'll help give him that diploma. And in return, he'll give us a little hope.