This weekend my mother graduated from Kaplan University with her Associates degree. As I was basking in proudness of my mother, my mind wandered to my students. While my students are only in middle school, I have started working with them on at least thinking about what they may want to do when they graduate from high school.
We started the year off with year-long goals and recently worked on long-term goals. They use a great Web resource, www.gacollege411.org to take interest and personality tests that are supposed to help guide them down the right path, as well as to research careers and the steps needed to reach their dreams.
As I was listening to the keynote speaker, Tony Dungy give a wonderful commencement speech, it hit me that my students aren’t expected to graduate. I became worried about their abilities to experience even a high school graduation. Many EBD students will drop out as soon as they are able, others may flunk out, and a select few seem to make it all the way.
From there things get even more dismal in regards to post-secondary education. While I am, of course, an advocate for education at all levels, I try to make sure my kids know they don't have to go to a four-year college, that they have several options.
I reflected on how realistic it is for my students to be planning to go to a typical college and succeed. Many of my students will always have behaviors that negatively impact their abilities in school; most are several years below grade level in reading and struggle with abstract math concepts.
I asked myself what I could do to help them at least make it through high school? How do you help a child like David, who only made it three days back in school before assaulting another student, getting suspended, getting in more trouble at home, and finally being sent back to the youth detention center? Or my female student, Keisha, who had a crisis last week in which the resource officer had to be called and the school placed on a lock down? Even my most well-behaved student is five years below reading level and cannot succeed in a highly structured environment if he isn’t taking his medications correctly.
Reflecting on that, the task of overcoming those challenges and making it to graduation seems daunting at best. I find myself feeling very pessimistic when thinking and planning with my students for their futures. I am saddened by the statistics that many won’t have the experience of a high school graduation, let alone a college graduation.
What success stories do you have with your students? How do you help yourself be optimistic and realistic while supporting them through the challenge of education?