9.18.2005

A rock and a...

First, everyone come visit in Seattle. We'll put y'all up. Second, the post.

So, I just finished up a week long position teaching English at an "urban" or "diverse" school. Those words seem so odd to me. It wasn't urban. There wasn't a building taller than two stories for 2-4 miles. It wasn't diverse. It was 59% Black and 23% Samoan. It is a lower class area. Resources are few. Basically, it's similar to Milwaukee.

These kids were pleasant kids. Some were hyperactive and refused to settle down, but for the most part, they were pleasant. One thing struck me throughout my experience, though. From my perspective there was a real lack of goals or looking to the future for these students. When pressed, they were mostly concerned with hustlin, pimpin, women, and money.

Before I ask this question, just know that flashes of well-meaning Brits in pith helmets emerging from the Jungle into Indian villages kept appearing in my head. How do I encourage these African-American boys (mostly) to pursue their education, have high expectations from their teachers, to succeed? How do I communicate to these students that education is really their only hope?

Only hope? I believe yes. One day, I asked the kids how they could possibly get a nice office job. They replied, "Jesus?!?"

Ha. Sorry, bad joke. They parroted "education" to me in a very lackluster fashion. It then dawned on me. There was another way for them to get a cushy office job. I asked them if all of the CEO's for Microsoft, Boeing, or Starbucks lived in their Rainier Beach neighborhood. I got a lot of hell no's, and explanations of how this they were "hood", and no rich people lived there. This led me to explain that rich parents networked and set up jobs for their children, whether they were qualified or not; whether they were remotely intelligent or not. In my opinion, these are pretty much the only main ways to get a nice office job. (If there are other ways, I'm open to suggestions).

This elicited little reaction from my students. BUT!!!! How do I convey the urgency that they have no safety net of parent's networks to fall back on, and their only option is to attempt to get an education at their poorly funded, poorly supported schools? How do I call their culture of hustlin, pimpin, being hard, and acting like gangsters into question without alienating them from their culture? How do I do this while at the same time being a total honky? Ideas? Thoughts?

9:22 PM