Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On my knees in the night / sayin prayers in the street light

They say I got ta learn, but nobody's here to teach me,
If they cant understand it, how can they reach me?
I guess they can't; I guess they won't
I guess they front; that's why I know my life is outta luck, fool!
- Coolio, "Gangsta's Paradise"
      I wonder sometimes how effective I'm being with my kids.  I don't want to fail them when they've been failed by so many people around them.  I don't want to be another person who just doesn't get it.  Some of my kids today were using chalk on their backpacks and drawing symbols that were ostensibly crosses hanging from a chain.  I had to ask them to stop because they're not supposed to have any symbols or writing on anything they wear or bring to school.  They didn't know why.  A particularly cheeky 8th grader spouted "Why, Miss D?  I believe in God.  Can't I show that I believe in God?"
     Part of me wanted to pat the kid on the back and tell him of course, but technically his backback was breaking school policy (which is in place to prevent gang related symbols from cropping up), and God knows I didn't want to get into a sociological discussion with an 8th grader about the similarities (and differences) between gangs and religious groups in their use of symbols.
     I get caught up in these internal dilemmas every day, and I worry that I'm not saying what I should be in order to break through the tough shells on my kids.  They've certainly been hardened by the cold reality of gangs and poverty.  I feel responsible though to help turn them from that path.
     Thinking about it, I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible to get through to the kids unless I meet them where they are.  They don't need another teacher condescending and correcting them all the time.  They need someone who's going to be there with them, be on their team, however the prophet Amos spelled it out long ago: "Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?" (3:3).  I've got to find a way to agree to walk with them, and not worry so much about how much farther there is to go.

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