“Maybe she won’t fail any classes and then she won’t have to be in summer school.”
So I took an awesome teenager to school yesterday.
It hasn’t been easy for her. A year ago she left home to go live with her dad for the first time since she was a baby. It didn’t work out. She came home. Home is a mess of a place for her, too, but it’s a mess she knows. Second semester she spent 3-4 nights a week watching her young siblings while the parents worked the night shift. No one in her home saw a problem with this. She’s been the primary care-giver for her siblings off and on for years, so I guess that makes sense.
It didn’t take long for her to fall behind in school. And after that it didn’t take long for her to realize sleep was necessary and then she ended up in high school girl drama and she quit going to school.
Her mother was warned that she’d get a ticket because of her daughter’s truancy, and that was that.
In less than three months the girl had gone from being an A-B-rarely C student to “home schooled.” AKA dropout.
I realize some people home school the right way. I’ve seen some amazing things happen in home school. This child was sitting at home babysitting all the time without any school taking place.
Yesterday, she started summer school to try to recover her lost credits from this semester. She’s back on track.
And that’s where the story should end. A success. A happy new beginning. Only it didn’t end there.
See, the teenagers counselor is awesome. But she wasn’t there yesterday when we went, with her younger sister who starts high school this year, to check in for classes.
When I said something about the younger sister being there in the fall, the woman, I pray to God not a counselor, sniffed her nose, looked down at both girls and said “Maybe she won’t fail any classes and then she won’t have to be in summer school.”
These are children of poverty, of violence, of life circumstances that leave me shaking my head and wondering how such things are possible. They have CPS caseworkers and court ordered therapists. They know the police by name and they’ve been to jails–both sides of the wall. Their stories aren’t all that unusual according to the guidance and attendance offices at my school.
That return to school was a triumph, but in one uncaring, thoughtless moment, someone working in the counselor’s office turned it into something bitter and less than. I wanted to rip her face off. I should’ve said something then, but I couldn’t even gather the words.
I’m saying something now. I’ll be saying it to the teenage girl’s counselor and the school’s principal also.
I’m in the education business. I know how easy it is to make assumptions, but we need to remember our goals here. If they’re in summer school, they’re TRYING, and that’s a good thing.