Garinger High – 2016-01-18

Whenever I write a longer post I let it sit for at least a day or two before posting them. This is one I ruminated over many months but wrote in a few minutes. I worry(ied) that this will be read with me as the focal point when the authorial intent is on both the plight and the fight of the kids. I also worry(ied) that this will be read as if Garinger High is not a tough place to work; I would bet that it is one of the five hardest high schools to teach in Charlotte. Nevertheless, there are things I don’t see a lot of teachers posting about for one reason or another that I think are worth bringing to light. Teaching is a tough profession; after my drive to South America and deployment for war, this has been one of the tougher things I’ve ever done. But if you can grind through the rough, you are bound to come across some diamonds.

I work at a school where exception is the norm.

Majority of the students are the minority.
Majority of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch (~93%).
Majority of the students take the bus to school.
Majority of the students have a lower GPA than the state average.
Majority of the students are performing at a lower grade level in one or more subjects.

These are the statistics that will make it to the pages of the executive white papers. How do I know? Because part of my living used to be writing those white papers. From the outside looking in, these are the exceptions that are significant. Certainly many real challenges remain, noted or otherwise, that cannot be ignored on a daily basis. Us teachers inside of these schools, however, also witness different exceptions to the norms in many of the things that matter.

Majority of the students fight vigorously and never give up.
Majority of the students happily collaborate with other minorities without thinking much of it.
Majority of the students are not envious about others’ achievements but celebrate them.
Majority of the students have utter disregard for superficiality and do not belittle others for wearing the same clothes from Salvation Army for weeks.
Majority of the students do not live with both parents and often take on the missing role.
Majority of the students care less about the color of your skin and care more about the content of your character.

How do I know? Because I no longer know how many of my students–Black, Hispanic, White, Asian, Male, or Female–have called me the father that they’ve never had. They say that they saw their missing dad and not their teacher cheering them on at the soccer game. When you remove them for disciplinary reasons, they say that they understand since you are like the daddy they never had. When you take those rare days off for personal reasons, they implore you to never leave them again like their father did and they don’t want this dad to leave them, too. When they move, they relay that they miss their father figure. They come to sit close by you after a basketball game, more happy that you are there losing your voice than saddened by the gravity of the crushing defeat. And they have forgiven me as many times as they would have forgiven their father. This childless man has become a father to the fatherless.

I work at a school where exception is the norm.

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