EMinNM

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 11 2011

Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.

Except in the case of my kids, Obi Wan is education.

I learned something interesting from my mother today. A friend of hers whose husband is in the FBI told her that Gallup, NM, is considered a “hardship” assignment for the FBI, which means someone who works here for 5 years then gets to pick anywhere they want to go next. The cases here, which range from domestic abuse to a whole lot of child molestation, are so bad that they dangle a carrot for anyone who’s willing to take it on.

And I totally believe it. It’s easy to “forget,” on purpose or accidentally, how much my kids are going through, because they’re happy and cheerful and multiplying and playing kickball like any regular kid. But the truth is that they are going through stuff no kid should experience. A boy in my grade level (not my class) watched his mom get beaten to death. He now lives with his alcoholic father. They don’t have any food. He is hungry. Can you blame him if he doesn’t really care about school?

I learned today about the home life of one of my kids, who is one of the ones I’d take home with me if I could. He’s sweet, enthusiastic, friendly, and persistently cheerful in the face of dramatic (undiagnosed…we’re working on getting him tested) learning disabilities. This kid works so hard on such routine, somewhat boring stuff, it blows my mind how determined he is. I knew he lived with his extended family, without running water or electricity. But I learned today that since his uncle beat up his mom a few weeks ago, they’ve been living in their car until 10 pm, when they have to go home to sleep and hope nothing happens. And since the same uncle beat up his dad last week, they’ve been going to Albuquerque every weekend to stay with his brother, a long trip that sometimes means the kids miss a day of school on Friday or Monday. This woman, who accepts her sons with all their strengths and difficulties, who loves her kids and wants nothing more than to protect them and have them succeed, was almost crying as she told me about it today. She wanted me to know so I can talk to her son about it, so I know, if he’s having a hard time staying awake, that’s probably why.

The reason we forget, accidentally-on-purpose, is the same reason the FBI doesn’t want to be here either. The problems my kids are dealing with are so dramatic, so heartbreaking, that you want not to think about them. It is so tempting to take it easy on them, to be sympathetic, to cut them some slack.

Except that the only hope for them is education. They NEED to work hard, they NEED to get smart, they NEED to go to college and get a good job and make enough money to pay for food, heat, and a roof over their heads. Because do you know what happens if they don’t? They keep on swimming in that whirlpool of generational poverty that their parents, and their parents’ parents, and their parents’ parents’ parents got stuck in, and they never get out. If you want to see what’s ahead of my kids without education, you just look at what they’re living with now. No water. No food. Too much booze. No home. No clothes. I can tell you one, two, even more kids just off the top of my head that are living in those conditions. They HAVE to care about school, because if they don’t, they’re right there in that same situation, watching themselves and the people around them get beaten.

3 Responses

  1. Michael

    Pace yourself girl. You won’t do them or yourself any good if you burn out. m

    • eminnm

      I know. But I don’t mind working really hard, especially when I’m starting to see it pay off for some kids. And I do make sure to do stuff that’s fun. I’m not dying, I promise :-)

  2. John

    I googled Obi Wan and found your posting. It’s a moving message, and I thank you for it. I’m going to read it to my grandchildren. Michael gave you some good advise. I hope, and will pray that, God gives you the strength and resources you need to help those kids.

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About this Blog

In which I muse about New Mexico, teaching, and life in general.

Region
New Mexico
Grade
Elementary School
Subject
Elementary Education

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