3 years ago I was given 9 sophomores to work with. They had all failed 3 or more classes their freshman year and were on track to drop out. This is what happened...
  1. These were kids whose parents were not involved in their education. Either because they were working several jobs, didn't speak English and were scared to come to school, or didn't value the demands of the school.
  2. 2 moved away during their sophomore year
  3. 2 were dismissed from the program because they admitted they weren't willing to try to pass ☹
  4. 5 remained.
  5. I repeatedly called us a family that first year and they scoffed. One kid in particular was immature and annoyed us all. The girls wanted to kill him and he loved that attention. It was a tough start.
  6. None of them used the computer program to check their grades. They didn't even know how to sign in. That was the first thing we did, set up their accounts.
    They didn't want to look because they knew it was bad. But it helped them get a grip on what they needed to do once we did grade checks once a week.
  7. Their biggest obstacle was not talking to their teachers about anything. I had to pressure them to work with teachers. They thought teachers didn't care, but once they showed them they wanted to pass, the teachers really opened up.
    Another thing I was surprised they didn't inherently know.
  8. They did better sophomore year, but still needed summer school to catch up on credits
  9. Junior year, the principal in charge of the program said they were good to go back to a regular advisory class and gave me a new group of kids to work with.
  10. 3 of my 5 kiddos came to me the first week of school saying "Junior year is SO HARD! We need you back!"
  11. So we had them transferred back to my class and moved the others to another teacher.
  12. They really started taking care of themselves more academically. Actually logging into to the gradebook and checking their grades on their own and talking to teachers when they needed extra help. These were huge steps for them!
  13. I've always worked with kids who struggle. Reluctant readers, kids who didn't pass our standardized tests, or just lazy. But in junior highs.
  14. But what l learned about these high school kids is they were tired because some were working 40 hours a week after school to help their families pay bills. They wouldn't get off work until 1:30 am sometimes and then come to school the next day and didn't have homework done.
  15. And junior year had so many personal obstacles: pregnancy and miscarriage, alternative school placements, breakups, firings from jobs, fights, and truancy court
    We barely made it through and lost one to her home school due to a fight that revoked the transfer that she was on.
  16. Senior year brought a lot of maturity, First love and heartbreak with boy tears in my office, Fears of deportation for them and parents.
  17. And the one who fought me so hard about calling our group a family, messaged us to say she missed the family after she was transferred back to her home school.
  18. Some of my favorite quotes:
  19. "You know what? Moms are always right."
    J wasn't happy about this, but he realized this fact at an early age. Doesn't mean he was going to listen though.
  20. "It seems like politicians just tell us what we want to hear."
  21. Things they asked to discuss: JFK's death, Trump, Clinton, illegal immigrant legislation, gender roles, any situation involving a teen and the law, love, kids, travel, dreams
  22. We talked about alcohol and drugs and begged them to stay away from the hard stuff.
  23. When they had six week periods where they passed all their classes, I told them to take their report cards home and show their parents. None did. Their parents weren't invested. It was their responsibility and the parents weren't involved in bad or good times. This was one of many heartbreaking realizations I had during my time with them.
  24. So each six weeks whoever passed all their classes would get to have lunch provided by me.
  25. I gave them small stockings with little gifts and gift cards for Christmas. And found out this was the only gift some of them received. 😭
  26. They had to find the motivation for themselves. And deal with my harassment of them every day.
  27. They taught me how to play flappy bird when it came out. I was terrible. Which they loved.
  28. I read them MacBeth and Beowulf, tried to help them with Geometry, and quizzed them on vocabulary.
  29. Every one of them gave me the silent treatment at one time.
  30. I saw all of them cry.
  31. I was in the room when one told her mother she was pregnant and had a miscarriage.
  32. I helped one write to his managers about an assault that happened at work that he was too shy to tell them about in person.
  33. Talked one through how to apologize and let his bosses know he would never again do what he did that was caught on tape by his employer.
  34. It was truly eye opening to see how different their life and expectations were from mine or my sister who graduated from high school 3 years ago. They aren't the center of their parents lives, they don't have stable homes, they don't have everything they need, they and their parents don't know how or where to get those things.
  35. Their life is not just school or activities for themselves; it's a lot of stress and dealing with legal issues, helping to support their families, and lastly studying to pass their classes. Education is not the most important thing. Family is. Working is.
  36. I'm glad to have been able to shed some light and be the guide to help them see past their sometimes very small worlds. I think they all have so much to offer and can be something great. I'm hoping they follow their dreams to be a chef, makeup artist, nurse, and whatever else they desire.
  37. Congrats to my grads! I'm so proud of them!
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