I was perusing Facebook a couple of days ago when I saw a post about consideration being given to school redistricting in the county I work in.
While segregation is supposed to be a thing of the past, it’s not. In my district, like in others, there has been a push toward “neighborhood schools.”
I understand that it’s a lovely moniker that harkens back to days past when you could walk to school and then come home and play kickball with the kids on your street. I know because that was the “neighborhood school” I went to.
Now it appears to be cover for people who do not want their children going to school with students of a different race and socioeconomic status. Don’t believe me? Come over to my school and watch the kiddos who live across the street from it get on a bus to go to a different school every morning.
I’m not sure how we got here but here we are. And honestly, I’m not smart enough to dissect the ins and outs of school districts and how their demographics impact children.
In the aforementioned Facebook post, a woman was relaying a conversation she had with a school librarian. It happened to be the librarian who I replaced. The one who went to a suburban school without some of the socio-economic and mental health issues that haunt the kiddos we serve.
I don’t know why she left and I know she is really good at her job. In the conversation, however, she talked about how, because we are a Title 1 (translation poor) we receive a lot more money from the federal government and the district.
In a way, she’s right. We do get more money than other schools. And it’s budgeted for things like books, technology, equipment, and other things we need. We also get a lot of donations from churches. Backpacks, school supplies, snacks for kids who don’t have anything to bring from home, funding for free “book fairs” where kiddos can pick a book to bring home.
All of this is well and good and don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for all of it.
But there are a lot of things this money can’t buy. It can’t cure my kids of asthma that is rampant because of their living conditions. It can’t help my students with the mental health issues that have plagued their families for multiple generations. It can’t cure them of the violence and the abuse that they see daily.
So yes, my students get the material things. But that’s not what they need to beat the cycle of poverty that many of them live in.
What they need are mentors. They need to meet and play and learn with all kinds of different kids. To see that life is not lived in a 12 block square off of Market Street. There is more for them out there.
My students need to know that they have a bright future and people who care about them. They need to understand that they have the resilience and grit to be anything they want to be and right now they have the love and support of an incredible team to help them get there. They need to see what we see and believe in themselves the way we believe in them.
They need social and emotional instruction to learn how to deal with events and feelings that nobody should have to deal with at any age let alone at six or seven years old.
We could really use mental health professionals based at our school. Our staff and administration would probably trade the material stuff for that. Professional who could give our students the tools they need to thrive instead of just survive.
I am a capitalist. I believe in the power of money and the tools it can provide to do good. But, sometimes we get stuck in an environment that’s not of our own choosing. No amount of money, no amount of stuff will get us through that.
It takes knowing who you are and where you want to go. It takes people who love and care about you to help you get there. It takes health in body, mind, and spirit.
When you are a kid, it’s hard to find all of that to make the changes you need to. But we are adults. And we have a lot more knowledge, resources and support to get the job done.
Where do you want to be? What do you want to do when you grow up? What will it take to get there? And for the love of all that is holy, don’t let anybody put you in a box and tell you it can’t be done. You can. You will. You are