I have mentioned here before that I work at an alternative high school, running the daycare. The students who attend this school, attend for various reasons, such as my young moms who need someone to care for their children while they attend classes or they also have to work full or part time and our school enables them to do both. But, much of the time, it is because they got kicked out of the regular high school for one reason or another or they fit better at our type of school then a regular high school.
Many of these teenagers are what a lot of people would call “misfits”, “problem” children or “juveniles”. Many of these young people already have probation officers. Some are in trouble with the law and are awaiting court hearings and fear going to jail or being sent away. Our students come from all social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds, so we have an interesting mix of students. We have students that come from quite wealthy and high on the social ladder type of families, to those that are practically homeless and have no family. Most of our students fall somewhere between these two groups. The one thing that most of the students have in common is that our school is their last chance or only chance of getting a high school diploma, because they have burnt their bridges else where or like my young mom’s, they have no other choice because of having a child.
Since our school is small, we can meet more of their needs, and they get a lot individual attention. Our school is kind of like a family and for some of our students we are the only family they have. The teachers and staff that I work with, all have a love for these types of kids and are very dedicated to reaching these “lost” children, that come through the doors. Some of them are recovering alcoholics and former drug users themselves and all of them have been teaching for a long time. I have so much respect for them, as they, not only are good with the students, they make less money working at our school.
The main goal of our school is to see these kids graduate and then go on for more schooling or work at a job that they can survive on. Much of the time this does happen but sadly, some even lose their chance to attend our school. While they attend our school, the goal is to empower these young people to make better choices and to equip them for life. Many of our students also work part or full time jobs, mostly out of necessity. This is possible because our school operates at all times of the day.
Working at a school like this is very rewarding, yet sometimes it is heart breaking for me. Many of the students are needy and lack self esteem and they are like sponges in wanting and needing to suck up any attention or love they can get. Many drink alcohol, use drugs, are sexually active, cut themselves and partake in activities that are dangerous. They cry out for attention and they will do anything to get it, even if it’s negative. These are the kids who have fallen through the cracks. They are starving for something more. And we try to give it to them and at the same time, teach them how to get something more for themselves.
At least a couple times a week, I have a student tell me they want to come home with me or that they wish that I was their mother. As much as that might be a compliment to me, it makes me sad that they feel this way. It’s hard to believe they feel this way since they know I am a pretty tough parent and would not put up with their crap. They know they can’t pull the wool over my eyes like they can with some people, because they know I have walked in their shoes or at least shoes, close to theirs. The thing is I see a part of myself or I should say the young person I was, in just about every one of them. They talk to me and tell me things that you hope to never hear from a child…things that they think are normal but aren’t. Sometimes, I have to report these situations to social services since I am a mandated reporter. This is hard, because they trust me, but I always want them to know that they can trust me to do the right thing, which isn’t always what they realize is the right thing.
I think these young people need to know that they matter, that someone hears them and that someone cares about them. They need to know that they can care for other’s too and that it will be accepted. Since I bring my little people with me to work everyday, my little people are well known and well loved by everyone. They are actually called our school’s mascot’s, because everyone that comes to school to work or as a student, knows that they will be greeted by two smiling children every day. The beautiful thing about children is that they don’t discriminate in who they choose to love and care for. My little people show love and care to every single one of these young people, no matter how tough or rough they look on the outside. I have watched with my own eye’s as they have melted the heart’s of those with even the toughest of exteriors. These young people come to school every day expecting a huge smile and hug from my little people. In turn, my little people expect it too.
To be perfectly honest, there are days that these young people drive me crazy. They frustrate me and can suck the life out of me if I’m not careful. Every day that I drive away from the school, I have to leave it all behind. I can not bring it home with me or it would break me. There are day’s I come home exhausted and with my heart broken over their situations and wanting to do more. Some days I think about doing something else, but,it’s my love and passion for young people, that keeps me going back.
Do you love what you do? Are you doing what you always wanted to do with your life? What gives you the drive to keep doing what you do every day? Do you ever want to change jobs? Do you ever think about doing something different? What is your passion in life and is this passion a part of your life?