A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

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Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

Dispatches From Students in South Central LA

Humberto*, 7th grade, Honors

"I am thankful for having great teachers that care for me. Also, all of my teachers push me cause they know that I am smart but they know I don't show it. They also give me tips and comments to help me do better. I am also thankful because this year is going real fast and I just have to wait 5 months so my Dad could come home from prison and be with me for a long time like a father should do."

Valerie*, 7th grade, Honors

"My plans for Thanksgiving are to volunteer at a program and we are going to give the homeless people food. Another thing that I will be doing is hanging out with my family. I am always going to remember that day."

Susana*, 7th grade, ESL

"I am thankful for having my family with me and my plans for Thanksgiving are making food for my family and just celebrate with my family. I think that some people from my family are going to get drunk but they are not going to drive because that is illeagle to U.S.A."

James*, 7th Grade, Honors, living in a homeless shelter

"I am thankful for many things. I am thankful most for God waking me up to see another day and almost another year. I am also full of thanks for God has blessed me with a roof over my head, clothes on my body, shoes on my feet. Most of all food to eat. I am also thankful for being free. For living in a world full of freedom. I am thankful for my teachers. Without them, I wouldn't be able to do nothing in my life. Most of all, I am thankful for my family."

*not students' real names

image from zwani.com

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