An Open Letter to the Bad Kids. . .

This goes out to the student who sat down today and with a straight face told me, ” I am a bad kid.” When I asked why he thought that he told me that is what the assistant principle said. This comes after the assumption that this student took his Ipad home, because there was a picture of his mother on it, when in fact he was just smart enough to figure out how to Google his mothers name. Something the administration couldn’t figure out, when this fact was pointed out to them they refused to apologize to him, 10 year olds don’t deserve apologizes do they?

This goes out to you. . . because someone has to tell you

I want you to know that you are smart, and funny, and most likely way to witty and creative for people to handle. That you are an outlier not because you are bad but because they can’t hold you down, you do not assimilate to the classroom culture and you shouldn’t let that discourage you. Keep it up.

I want you to know that you can do the work in your classroom, that sometimes you just want to demonstrate the little power that you have in anyway that you can, While this may seem like a show of strength to you, by not doing your work you are only hurting yourself. Demonstrate your strength with your knowledge.

You need to know that compared to most of your suburban, educated, mostly white teachers you are a foreign entity. The stories you tell about the life you have to live outside of school probably astounds them. No matter how many classes you take on being culturally responsive, when you watch a 10 year old take care of his little brother and sister day after day, walk them to class, make sure that they get picked up. When you hear the stories about the 6 extra people living in your apartment it is hard to handle, and some people handle it better than others. Some people see your potential your grit, and resiliency that you show just for showing up at school each day and producing some work. Some people see how these skills will make you more marketable in the work force, some people will hone these skills with you and teach you how to regulate all of the many emotions coursing through your brain at anytime.

But some people will see a problem to be fixed, they will see a situation that must be diminished and overcome. They will see you as a deficit already, at 10 years old they will wash away all of your potential. And because of that they will write you off, they will call you a bad kid and keep a running record of your grievances in their mind. They will let your get away with not doing the work, not because they care about your situation, but because they think that is all you can do.

Accept this challenge! Rise to this occasion, to prove them wrong!

When those few teachers yell at you and sit you down one on one and make you do the work. When those teachers allow you to sit in their rooms for hours on end when you have been removed from another classroom. When you think that teacher couldn’t be any harder on you, just know it is out of love.

These are the teachers that know what you can do, they yell at you because it isn’t acceptable for you to not do the work they won’t accept anything less than the best from you, because to allow the circumstances outside of school to affect would be doing all of your amazing qualities a disservice. They are yelling and not taking your shit because they love you.

They know just when to give a little to not push to hard, but to still get the most work done.

My worst fear is that you will adopt that label of a “bad kid” as the truth. As I have already seen you doing as an amazing 10 year old. There is absolutely nothing inherently bad about you, sometimes you make bad choices, but someone has to teach you why they are bad, the choices you make are not you!

I want you to know that SI SE PUEDE! No matter what anyone, even yourself tells you. You can do this. You can overcome a system that was never designed to benefit you. but at its core, at the root of it was designed to keep you out of it. This system is yours, you are the future.

And the only thing Bad about you is how Bad Ass, you are going to make this world when you show everyone what you are made of.

❤ Kelsi Rae

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The insights of my children.

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I have no children, or I have anywhere from 32-100 on any given day, just depending on your definition of “your child” If your definition falls in the you conceived this child and gave birth to them, or even adopted them into your family and you feed and cloth them on a daily basis, then I have a whopping 0 children. But if you define your children based on the number of children you nurture, care for, find yourself staying up all night thinking and praying for, hoping more for their future than for the grade they get on some standardize test, if your children are defined by the amount of love you hold for them and how much potential influence you have over their life, than I have upwards of 35 children or more. I happen to define my children based on the latter.

I see these children for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, caring for their social and academic well being, I find myself thinking of them on my nights and weekends, to the point I was at the zoo taking pictures of the snakes, which I hate, because I knew they would motivate one of my children. I see an opportunity to teach them in every moment of my day, even when they are not with me I am thinking of ways to incorporate things into our lessons. I wish that I had more than 8 hours with each of them so that I could learn the intricacies of their personality all of the things that get pushed aside during the academically driven day. And while I am not say that reading, writing, math, science and social studies are not important, they are but I want to truly know all of my children as well. And if that does not qualify my to feel just like 1/4 of a mother to all of my students, than I guess I am in the wrong profession, but I don’t think that is true.

But than something happens everyday my students teach me something, they teach me how to operate some form of technology, they teach me about the ways that social relationships in fourth grade have not changed that much in 15 years and who the stars of the new Five Nights at Freddy’s game is, ( For more on that see this post https://myhairenvy.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/what-can-you-teach-ms-magisano/)  But every once in a while, a student says something that makes me truly stop and think, how are you in fourth grade and why does our world make you so acutely aware of these things at such a young age.

Today was one of those days. One of my few Black boy students was getting into a disagreement with another student who happened to be Mexican, both boys told each other to Shut up and I stepped in to tell them that was not respectful language and we do not treat our classmates that way. The Black student looked me dead in the eye and said, ” I am just getting pay back for what he said to me.” So with this student in is often better to just give it to him straight, without the teacher mumbo jumbo surrounding it.

So I stated, ” Who is going to get in trouble if you get payback, you or him.”

Him: ” We both should get in trouble, but I will get sent to prison and he will go to school.”

** This is where the conversation took a serious turn I was stunned jaw hanging open when this occurred**

He continued to state that he would go to jail, but when he got out he would find the other student and wack him ( I do believe he meant I will hit him, he is not in the 1960’s Italian mob telling me he is going to kill him)

We had an entire conversation around this, how he thought it was more likely he would get sent to prison while the other guy would get away with it. This comes after two separate instances with this student where a student has used racist language with him, he retaliated and he was sent to the principles office while the other student suffered no consequences. At one point the teachers on duty did not even know who the other student was, these racist statements were not seen in any way as a problem that merited a talking to with that child.

So yes this student is probably right, this comes from a student who is growing up in a world where Black Americans make up 30% of the population but they make up 60% of the incarcerated population. According to this article http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/18/chart-of-the-week-the-black-white-gap-in-incarceration-rates/

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my student as well as other Black men are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime than white males. Given these statistics are comparing White males and Black Males and no statistics in this particular study comparing Hispanic Americans’ from other work I have done the numbers would fall somewhere in the middle of the two.

But for me the sentiment is the same, why is my 4th grade student aware of these problems with our society, does he even realize he is voicing the concerns of many others much older than he is? probably not.

He probably feels like these things are isolated to this elementary school setting,

He probably has not even started to think outside of these walls that are supposed to be a safe and nurturing space for him, a space where all of his teachers claim him as a child, where they all feel like they are 1/4th of his Mother, and if that was the case these things would bother them as much as they do me, they would all be calling for a change in the system, a change from a system that systematically creates the school to prison pipeline for these students, that funnels them through till they are 18 and they can become a ward to the state, they would be outcrying to the district that has a 60% disproportionality rate of Black males in the emotional disability centers.

But that is not happening, instead I am having a much to mature conversation with my fourth grader, with one of my children who has way to much insight for his own good, trying to get him to see that this is not the way it has to be.

❤ Kelsi Rae