I stayed late to make a bevy of phone calls because I’ve learned that Friday contact sends a really clear message to teenagers when a stern parent collides with a weekend full of plans. Sifting through my 11th grade roster, my heart sank as visions of stark and turbulent home lives announced themselves in telling subtleties on the student information system:
* Four kids with only one parent listed, which means the other is dead or deadbeat, no second mailing of report cards to the non-custodial parent, just conspicuously absent
* Three kids with no active phone numbers (poverty) followed by emails that bounced back ‘undeliverable’ or garnered no response
* Two orphans, zero parents, an older brother in one case and an ill-equipped aunt in the other serving as “court-appointed guardians”
* One girl with a younger brother in a high school for the mentally ill
In a sampling of ten out of thirty, the trauma was startling but predictable from a group of kids who made their way onto my ‘hit list’ by failing the first two quizzes of the year. I see them scowling, making assumptions about the discrepancies in privilege, mine versus theirs. I want to breathe winds of reassurance, speak to the power of resilience and grit, tell them, I was you once and Where you come from does not have to dictate where you go if you’re brazen enough to dream bigger than your circumstances.