Dwindling Resources, Diminishing Expectations

Twin Cities teachers talk about how their schools and classrooms have changed

 

KAREN SWIGART

Been teaching since 1965, the last 18 years in Minneapolis.

As long as you won't tell my husband, I'll tell you I spend about a thousand dollars a year out of my own pocket. It goes for books and extra supplies. Our budget this year limits our Xerox paper. We can have 500 pages a month per teacher. That sounds like a lot until you consider writing notes to parents every week and homework and everything. Kids need notebooks and some just can't bring those things in. Every week there is something. I'm not the only one; we all do that.

 

ROMA LEE RASMUSSEN

Sometimes it really enlightens me [to see] how resilient students are. I've had little boys, just five years old, coming in acting totally inappropriate. They swear at the teachers, hit and kick the teachers. They are resilient because they are coming from an environment where they are witnessing that kind of behavior. If that were me, I don't think I could have handled it and been the little spunky, sparky kids that many of them still continue to be. You see how much they want to learn. I had another child come in full of spark and spunk, and his parents put him on Ritalin and he became so depressed. I think sometimes society doesn't allow kids to be kids and to appreciate that resilience.

I just can't imagine being exposed as a child to the things some of these kids are exposed to and yet still wanting to learn. When we work with children who have come from refugee camps, you see how much they still have hope. There is that spark and it is still alive and you appreciate what they have gone through to make it here.

I have had students in kindergarten who can read at a third-grade level, and even one reading at a sixth-grade level, and it was incredible to watch how compassionate they can be toward peers who have no idea what they are doing. How compassionate and patient and how willing they are to help each other.

Years ago I was talking to a little boy in kindergarten, asking what his goal was in life. His goal was to rob people's cars like his big brother did. Can you imagine having that perspective and yet coming into a kindergarten and being able to function? I had another little girl who lived with her grandma. When it was time for conferences, the grandma was sick, so I went to her home. Inside there was absolutely no furniture and the grandma was on a mattress in the middle of the floor. Yet that girl was still coming to school every day. A couple of weeks later I found out that her cousin had been sold into prostitution by her mother, my student's aunt.

Another time I went on a home visit because the parents consistently failed to come for conferences. When I knocked on the door, they wouldn't let me in because they had had a drug raid there the night before. Mattresses were torn up and furniture had been thrown on the porch. Imagine coming to school during these kinds of things--how terrifying things like that would be for a child. I'd be terrified. And that is what the children have taught me, is how resilient people can be.

I admire Minneapolis for doing what the Statue of Liberty says: Send me what you have and we will deal with it and help it to grow. That's our goal and sometimes it doesn't work. But sometimes it does.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 
Loading...