Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Blessed With A Burden

When I work with the "at risk" students...the ones who have been given up on in the past, the ones who have had over 70 office referrals (no lie), the ones who aren't given the new books, the ones who haven't ever been outside of a 20 mile radius from their home, the ones who don't have a lot of positive peer role models, the ones who are "wild" and "break rules/laws" all the time, the ones destined for jail/juvie, the ones that can't be trusted, the ones who are failing.

I feel like I'm doing something. I love these students. When I'm with them, when I work on earning their respect, when I start to see things from their point of view, when I get to prepare for my time with them, when I get to listen to them, when I get to teach them, I get overjoyed. Over the moon.

Over spring break I got to go to Alabama and see five schools in the Montgomery public school district that were heart breaking. There were more security guards than custodial staff. The last time they bought new books was over 10 years ago. A lot of the teachers had already given up on them. No one knew how to "deal with them". There were metal detectors to get into the school, there were random lock downs just because, there were broken windows, there was little hope. Real schools, in America, public schools. 96% Black/African American. 98% on free/reduced lunch. Just trying to shuffle them through.

I've been thinking a lot about my life, my decisions for the future, what I want to know, the usual thoughts when graduation is looming.

And I still don't have a definitive answer. But I know two things that I didn't know.
1. I don't have to pick a career and stay in the exact same area my entire life. My degree provides me with flexibility. That doesn't mean I'm indecisive or stupid.

2. I used to want something else. My perspective has shifted, my heart has shifted, my desires have changed. I didn't want to be near the line. I wanted to be in the arena, in the circle of social work/counseling/mental health. But I wanted to work with the...ones who weren't "at risk". And that may very well still be true. But I really like working with those who don't have much of anything, as well as the ones who feel like they don't have anything. Slowly, I wanted to start to toe the line and bridge the gap between middle class and working class. And then I ended up building it for myself and crossing it.

Maybe I'll hate it. Maybe it'll just a little bit of time that I'm doing this, and that's fine. My family is probably going to wonder why. My parents will probably say, "We knew it all along". Some people might think I'm wasting my talents. Others may think it just proves I don't have talent.

Because status is heightened when you make money. And if you don't make money,  you're not important. That's what I've learned growing up in middle class America. And social workers don't make a whole lot of money. Especially the ones who work with "at risk" anything.

I kind of hate social work because it's ruining my life plans. You know, the ones of having the high status job, with the hunky husband, adorable kids, raking in the dough, and being good at everything, and inspiring people.

On a related note, this is one of my favorite songs. And Demi Lovato is great. I'd endorse her. 
I guess if I can only have one right now. It'd be inspiring people. That's my decision, I realized this week. 

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