Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Okay For Now

I just finished reading Gary Schmidt's book Okay For Now. It was amazing. Truly. The main character, Doug, is a kid who has an incredibly awful home life, with a dad who's a total jerk. Dad's abusive and hangs out with another jerk, which only makes matters worse. Most of Doug's teachers think he's a trouble-maker and give him nothing but negativity and judgement. 

The way Gary gives Doug a voice (using first-person narrative) is stunning, and he allowed me to deeply engage with Doug's struggles, fears, anger, and doubts. Doug's story resonated so much with me, I think, because although many of my students have homes with stability, love, support and encouragement, I also have those who are hanging on by a thread. Kids who, like Doug, come to school with so many other issues pressing on them that survival is what is their highest concern.

This year, it seems more of my kids are finding themselves in that awful position. As our relationships have developed, my heart aches for them. One student has repeatedly told me this year that she never wants to leave my classroom. She loves being at school. Apparently her mom has had multiple boyfriends in their home and a former husband who is in and out of the picture. It's her first year at our school, but she missed the last three days before break. Word on the street is that her family is moving. They've been evicted. This girl is smart; she's connected with another student in my classroom who is on the spectrum and that's given her purpose. It's helped her to connect and feel needed. She has grown in every area of the curriculum and as a person, too - by leaps and bounds! She qualified for our district's spelling bee, but no one brought her. 

I so wish I could write the rest of this girl's story and control the ending. Her family would see the light and embrace her unique qualities. They would learn to love and appreciate each other. They would celebrate the good in every member of the family and reach goals together. Mom would be an advocate for her kids in their learning and in their interests. She would get her daughter involved in healthy relationships and never miss an opportunity to allow her to shine. 

What makes this even more disheartening is that there are way too many in my classroom who are in similar circumstances. The time in our classroom is precious because it gives those kids hope. Shows them they are important. And capable. Gives them opportunities to face and overcome challenges in order to grow, knowing they have a community of encouragers believing in them. 

It is especially for those kids that we create classrooms where acceptance, understanding, encouragement, teamwork, and learning opportunities are constants. We expect kids to be challenged and we believe in their abilities to be their best. I want every single one of my kids to always know and remember that no matter how old he or she is I will always be his or her advocate and cheerleader. 

Gary's story of Doug's journey may be fictional, but my hope is that for my kids, whether parents come around or not, they will know their worth and abilities. They will enjoy learning because they will know someone truly cares and believes in them.

An article worth reading: 
Parents Aren't Necessary For Students to Learn by Ben Johnson 

Ted Talk by Rita Pierson

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