Not all kids are the same

I’m halfway through summer school and to be honest, these kids are way easier to deal with than the kids at my regular school. This morning at arrival, I was watching a few of the girls from my class eating breakfast and socializing. I was struck by the fact that these about-to-be-fifth-graders are the same age as last year’s fifth graders yet are so strikingly different. For one thing, they are still in the stuffed animals phase. Also, they aren’t quite so mean and disrespectful. It’s important to note that the racial mix at summer school is vastly different than that of my regular school.

My co-teacher for summer school also teaches in my regular school. She has far greater insight into our school as she’s involved with just about every single kid. We started talking about my observations. She pointed out the huge disparities between the lives of our summer school kids and our regular kids. One kid and his sister are living in a motel that is noted for its abundance of addicts. A set of twins lives with their grandparents. (In fact, we have a lot of kids who live with grandma.). Another parent was just arrested for shoplifting pregnancy tests and hair spray from the drugstore as part of a scam to sell these items on the side. My co-worker also talked about the girls whose moms are trying to be besties instead of parents – letting their kid do whatever they want; making age-inappropriate TikToks.

As I’ve discussed previously, these kids have so much going on in their lives that it seems difficult for them to just enjoy being kids. I’m no professor of sociology but it’s reasonable to say that socio-economic factors are are play here. Our school typically performs at the bottom of the district on assessments and state tests (I prefer not to get into the dynamics of the debate here). I think about the kids in my school and I wonder what their lives will look like in 15-20 years when there’s so much in their lives that is outside of their control yet are things that have enormous impact on their life outcomes.

This is one of those times where I feel helpless to make a difference. I have to remind myself that maybe the best difference I can make is to be a compassionate person in their lives who truly wants to encourage them to be their best selves.