Friday, September 28, 2012

School's in for Summer

Originally publilshed on the Kent Patch on June 14th, 2012.

It's only mid-June, but I have to say that this summer is shaping up quite nicely.  I've been making progress on my dissertation writing, enjoying the weather, and catching up on quite a bit.  Summer usually brings new experiences and challenges for me, and this year is no different.  Monday, I began teaching science at Kent State's Upward Bound program for underprivileged youth across Northeast Ohio.  I dare say that in three days, they've taught me as much or more than I've taught them (just don't tell my students I said that).  This has been a big change for me, since I've spent the last six years teaching undergraduates at Kent and Hiram, and high school students are a far more different demographic than I had expected them to be.
Not many people know this, but for a brief 3 quarters at Ohio State I was an education major.
Fortunately, a spring break field trip to the Everglades with one of Ohio's best ecologists changed that major, along with a helpful reminder of how loud, chaotic, and smelly a classroom full of kids could be.  I've maintained my interest in education, but aimed at older students, and as little as like actual kids, I still consider them absolutely amazing in theory- they are our future, and just amazing creatures.  If only they weren't so raucous and juvenile.  But I digress.
I don't by any means consider myself to be a person of means.  I grew up in a lower middle income family, lost my father to cancer when I was fourteen, and moved out of the house my senior year due to differences with my step-father.  Especially since my sister's suicide last August, I don't feel particularly lucky.  In the past few days, I've learned exactly how lucky I actually am, thanks to the teachers I've had.
These students can do amazing  things.  They can come up with great questions.  They can get the right answer to anything I ask of them, given the right support.  Are they perfect?  Most definitely no.  But they're kids, and pretty amazing kids, in spite of the lot they've been given.  Foster care, raised by grandparents, one just recently back in housing, parents in jail or rehab; my 22 students represent a side of society that I've had the benefit of never having experienced first hand, and they've come through it intact and still wanting to learn.  And even over the summer, on a college campus away from their community!  Kids really are pretty amazing, when you think of it, and I've gotten to meet some astonishing ones during my time in Kent.
That fact gives me hope, honestly.  For all my complaints about students and the state of education, I am hopeful.  Even when we cut support and funding for education, children's health and nutrition, and other services that benefit kids, they still manage to beat the odds.  Not all of them, of course, but some.  I just have to wonder what those kids who manage to rise above will remember when it's their turn to be a part of society.  Will they remember being a priority, invested in, and valued, or will they remember budget cuts, losses of services, and being pushed aside?
One of my favorite quotes is the saying that "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children."  What kind of tenants will we be today?

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