No kids left behind

It was both exciting and nerve-racking waiting for the students to arrive on Monday morning, beginning the first week with the students.  Although thirty students were registered for the higher ed. class, we had no idea how many would show up.  Between fifteen and eighteen students actually showed up, with new faces each day.  There were fewer students than we anticipated, so lesson plans had to be quickly adjusted, the smaller class size has allowed Mallory, the head teacher, and myself to get to know the students better, which has been really fun.  Each student has their own unique personality with their own strengths and weaknesses.  The first week was absolutely exhausting and filled will memorizing names (there are two Luises, two Joses, and two Marios!), lots of laughing, playing soccer, learning some Spanish and Russian, and being so impressed by what incredible kids I will work with for the next two and half weeks.

Each day we must include Language Arts and Mathematics.  We begin each morning with the students writing in their journals based on a prompt we provide.  For math, we have tried to incorporate more practical things, so budgeting has been and will be a major theme we will focus on this summer school.  When asked to set some short-term, medium-term, and long-term, most students listed going to college as one of their long-term goals.  Because of this, we have decided to visit a few colleges in the upcoming weeks for field trips and spent Thursday afternoon allowing the students to do some research online about colleges they may be interested in. 

Introducing the students to the opportunities they have for college and careers is crucial, especially since during the school year, many are often dismissed and pushed aside.  Several times this past week students made comments like “I am stupid because I am Mexican” and “Mexicans should not go to college because we cannot be successful.”  Statements like these absolutely break my heart and is exactly why I want to go into education as a school counselor.  At age fifteen and sixteen, some of the students believe they are not capable of achieving their goals.  Many of the young boys and girls are aware of the systemic inequalities present in today’s society and have internalized that they are inferior simply because of the color of their skin, the country they were born in, or their native language.  One boy stated, “I am not able to do this. How about you just give me the answers like my teacher does during the school year. I’m treated just like the kids with special needs and just given the answers.”  The students in my class are bright and talented; they have just as much potential as any other teenager and our education system needs to make substantial changes so these hilarious, witty, intelligent, and talented children are not left behind.

Erin O’Connor
Gettysburg

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