A freewrite on high schoolers, my job, writing, and mediocracy

Reader, I’ve been good with keeping to my boundaries. Work should stay at work, which includes checking my email and making mental to do lists. I’ve done good. Mastered it, even. What I can’t shake, though, are the students’ experiences and environments I hear about and witness everyday. This, paired with the questions and reality about social mobility. It haunts me and haunts me and haunts me many times over.

I’m set up in a South Central high school, have been since August, supporting the school’s teachers with in-class support on a number of creative writing units, as well as coaching students through writing personal stories for chapbook compilations. I’m part of a small team, and it’s wonderful work. Hard to believe it’s even a full-time position. However, it’s got it’s weeks, this past one for instance, where I just don’t feel like my job is effective in the way that it needs to be.

These student narratives tug at themes I’ve seen and heard of many times. But, for me, as I’m coming into a new consciousness about education and seeing the mess that the new administration is tossing up, these student narratives feel fresh everytime. Lately, I can’t help but to sit down, push aside the schoolwork and just talk to the students. Whether it’s something my mind begs or something I feel that they need, I can’t say. But I did it this week, again. Last week too.

I want to honor their privacy, these students. They shared personal things in confidence. But believe me when I say, these students deserve the world ten times over for how smart they are. And let me say, smart in ways that aren’t recognized in the classroom or appreciated in their curriculum.

The writing I do with them reverses this. Though, sometimes, I’ll admit, the job is too big. So much that many kids don’t get seen. The nature of my job is to help reduce the student to teacher ratio to provide more quality writing time. But, I think we’re lying to ourselves if we say we’re beyond mediocre.

As the last class period of the day came to an end, Thursday afternoon, I just sat there. Listened to the conversations the students were jumping into, wondered, too, what will become of them. I see them interested in their community, giving their best, and questioning their place in the world. I can relate. So much, really, that I become forgiving. How do I prepare these students for an unforgiving world that I’m still healing from? Sometimes, like this past week, I choose to listen. Most days I don’t chuck up any advice. I let them seek their own truths in ways that I know will invite growth.

All this is to say, I’m lost. Writing is fundamental here. I see that. But lately, it’s become a results-driven process. And I’m not about that. Students get mushed into numbers, get mediocre support, and don’t get to experience how writing can really support theirs and their community’s growth.

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