I work at a continuation high school in Oakland. Just imagine how my days are…that’s right, you really can’t because everyday there is something new.
Everyday I take the streets from Hayward to Oakland to only work for 5 hours. In those 5 hours I’m just helping students finish their senior project. That wasn’t initially the idea behind my job, but with a small percentage of students coming to school everyday, it’s hard to get anything done. I’ll admit, a lot of these students aren’t motivated enough to finish the project or refuse the help you try to give them. They come to class and talk and do no work until they are ready. Blame staff for why something isn’t done. Or find shortcuts to only end up coming real short. So the students find themselves in that class again until they complete it. Mind you, it’s a 5 page paper about a specific topic in Oakland. Most of the students pick crime, gun violence, drugs, homicides, gentrification. They think it’s going to be easy, that’s the reason for picking the topic. That is all until they actually have to do research which only is 3 articles, 1 book, and 1 interview. Lastly, a presentation with 5 slides. (like pulling teeth to get them to get the info)
I can’t always blame the students for not having an interest in doing the work or knowing how to do it because of the INSTITUTION SYSTEM AND ITS POLITICS. But when you have a one on one tutor who is motivating you step by step through the process and supporting you through other realms in your life, they still need to take the initiative to work. Since they expect things to be handed to them because they are in a continuation school. Sometimes that is the case. But when you have aspirations of going to college self motivation and discipline is key. I try to explain that in every which way. They don’t hear me though.
As much as I can’t stand helping with these senior projects because all of the energy these students suck out of me by refusing to get things done, one student on my caseload gives me the ultimate life! He reminds me of myself. He is always plotting his next move, thinking of ways to get money, and give back to the community. He hadn’t been showing up to school so I never got to meet him for a few weeks. Then one day, he showed up and I introduced myself and asked him would he be interested in having a tutor help with his reading. His eyes lit up and he said “yes definitely that sounds real cool.” I was so juiced yall. He didn’t hesitate, decline, or brush me off like some of the others. Then I asked him if he needed help in his other classes he said no. Then the next few days that senior project popped up.
He started showing up to school everyday so we could work on his senior project. His subject is on Sideshows in Oakland and how he can make it work for everyone.He had told me at his other school, no one sat down with him and really helped him with his work. That’s why he has never written a paper, or knows how, until I came into the picture. When I heard his solution of how he wants to make sideshows LEGIT, I was amazed. After that, everyday our conversation would get deeper on how he can make money. That’s how I knew he was my lil homie. His mind races everyday on ideas of how he can make money. He just needs that little push. Such an entrepreneur, and I told him I would help out as much as I can. He also wants to go to school for auto mechanics and own his own car detailing business. So everyday he works on his paper,and I multitask by helping him get information so he can be set after he graduates.
Today he didn’t come to school and thankfully he showed up after school with his mom. He greeted me and told me that he has been working on his project, although he didn’t come to school today. That takes dedication considering that none of the other students I have worked with has done any take home work. I almost cried. I responded and told him I found information on schools and job leads. His mom came into the conversation and said “yeah he needs to get a job, thank you for helping out with that.” But I told him and her together… that this paper is the first priority. This is his ticket to graduation. Once this paper is complete and his presentation is solid, we will worry about resumes and cover letters.
I don’t want these kids to just think they are only here to just have graduation handed to them and work some dead job. There is way more to life and other opportunities that will come along with work. But to be able to work, you need a bit of an education… especially reading, writing, and math. Although some of the other kids don’t care what happens to them after they graduate or making an effort to seek options, I am honored to work with this student and I look forward to working with him every 4th period. Just to hear his ideas and that he is happy to be able to write a good solid 5 page paper.