I know it’s special where you are, but until you experience it here, you probably wouldn’t have a complete understanding why it’s just a little more special here. You see when the students where I teach high school science graduate, it’s a little more special than you’re run of the mill high school graduation. Where I teach, the effects of poverty are on full display. Dangerous streets, serious dysfunction at home, crowded conditions, English a second language, all make for a severe uphill climb to simply graduate high school. Heck, somewhere around 80% of our parents haven’t graduated from high school. Thinks about it, 80%. If you’re reading this you may take graduating from high school for granted, I mean of course you graduate from high school, duh. All you really have to do is show up if all you want to do is graduate, right?
Maybe It’s Not So Simple
Where I’m at its not so simple. The fact that our kids even make it to school everyday is a miracle for a good many of them. Whenever you scratch the surface just a little bit and find out what’s going on in their lives, harping on why they didn’t study, or do their homework starts to ring a bit hollow. And if that wasn’t enough, they’re teenagers too. If I was in their shoes at their age I would probably be doing the same things they are and having just as tough a time.
Don’t get me wrong, we send kids to college all over the place. We have had a Gates Millennium Scholar for the last 2 or 3 years in a row. Kids go to UCLA, Cal, out of state colleges and universities. We have success on that level too, it’s just that it becomes tough to compare numbers with “other” schools in that area. “College readiness” may be how some people judge us but I know what success looks like from my vantage point and it’s not so black and white as maybe “some people” want it to be.
So when our 400 or so students graduate, it signals success. It’s great. Those kids have overcome more than the average person knows, even more than I usually know and I’ve been at this school for 25 years. To our community, graduating high school is a big deal and it should be. It sort of reminds me why I stayed where I am. One of the problems with teaching is that you don’t usually get to see the end result. You don’t normally see how the kids turn out. But for one night you get reminded why you’re there. Maybe you had a small part in this person or that person overcoming the odds and ending up better off for having graduated from your school. So remember why you’re there, feel good about kids graduating because it’s special and you had a part in it as a teacher, but I’m going to continue to think it’s just a little more special here.
Thanks for reading, let me know what you think.