Saturday, August 23, 2014

So...I teach in a Jail...

I am now teaching in a jail. A bit different and quite a story, but here is the thing...it's really not that much different! Most of my students struggle with learning, most have some type of learning disability that had gone unnoticed by their teachers, and most need to hear that they can accomplish something in school that is acknowledged with a star on their paper and an "Attaboy!!" verbal exclamation.

But- there are some interesting differences...


For one thing, most of my students look something like this guy. All have tattoos somewhere and some of the more prominent gang members have tattoos on their scalps, their faces, on their ears, necks, fingers, and virtually any place they can have one, they usually have one.

They also flash gang signs to guys walking by, and some have been in hard state prisons for years at a time. Some are just waiting to be sentenced and hoping that they can show the judge improvement by going to school. Some are terrified that they will be away from their wives and children for years and their kids will grow up like they did, without their fathers to help them wade through the very real danger of gangs and murder on the streets.

I don't ask them about where they came from or why they are there. Some will tell me though and their stories are always so heartbreaking. I feel badly for these guys. Most grew up without stable parents, some were foster kids in and out of the system. Some were horribly abused and some watched their parents abuse drugs and alcohol. All of them were searching for something when they were arrested and usually that something is a quick dollar because they didn't finish school and couldn't get a job that made their family enough money to survive. Drugs became a way out, both financially and literally but most couldn't deal without being a part of a gang and so that is what they did- because they had to and because for many of them, it was the first real family that they had. Except it is difficult to just "dabble" in a gang. If you are a part of one, you become a true part of one and you must participate in everything that goes along with it...

So...I teach in a jail...and it's not that different, except it is...
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