Your Perfect Little Mold

Alternative high schools. What an absurd idea. “Let’s take all of the kids who struggle in school, and socially isolate them in a room. When they continue to act out because they just spent an entire day with other children who have behavioral disorders, let’s socially isolate them in building of their own, where they can learn and feed off of one another.”

Sure, I get it. Education is precious, and we don’t want difficult kids taking all of the attention and time from teachers. In special education and for children with learning disabilities, this is essential for some kid’s success.

But why is it the solution for kids who don’t haveĀ  a learning disability, they just had a particularly tough time dealing with the divorce of their parents, or fell in with the wrong crowd, or had a horrific childhood and lack proper outlets?

I have a kid on my caseload who is good at basketball. I mean really good. He’s 6’3″, and knows how to play ball. He was removed from the public high school in the boundary zone of his home (for misdemeanors) and placed in an alternative school almost entirely lacking any extracurricular activities whatsoever. Because of the State we live in, he is still eligible to participate in extracurricular activities in the public school that is in the boundary zone of his home. Too bad this is the school that rejected him and kicked him out.

Basketball tryouts are today and tomorrow, and this kid has to meet with the principal before the school will allow him to even tryout. He has the paperwork done, he is ready to go. They don’t even remember this kid and don’t trust him. None of his charges are against the school. They are making it near impossible for him to even try to have this opportunity as he fights to be perfect so he might be allowed to re-enroll in their perfect little school.

I wouldn’t be so angry if this wasn’t the second kid on my caseload to be pushed so far to the limit and tested so heavily that the teen is given no choice but to cave in. When you look hard enough for flawed behavior, you will find it eventually, even if you are creating it in your mind.

Teenagers are amazing. They are unique, they are dangerously individualistic, they are hilarious, they are curious, and they are messy. Teenagers who are on probation are no different. They may be rougher around the edges, and lack trust in adults who say they care about them. They may need a few extra chances, and they may just need a little irrational hope to scoot them through their days. The kids on my caseload are no less valuable than the non-probation kids who are simply interrogated less, luckier, live in a wealthier neighborhood, or wear less baggy clothes. They still dream, they still have goals, and they still have some hope left in them for their future – until a school says “we don’t trust you enough to let you play ball, and by the way you cannot play anywhere else either.”

Sorry my kid doesn’t fit your perfect little mold.

Potentially Interesting

Today a kid on my caseload got drunk in the back of his school and decide to jump over the school’s back fence to leave. When I asked him about it, he said, “I just didn’t want to be there anymore.” Fair point.

A kid on my caseload that was in juvy told me that they had pretended to be suicidal their first night detained just because they wanted a staff to waste their time sitting 1-1 with them and he knew the right things to say. I tried not to laugh, but these kids are so clever in their payback.

As I tried to think of what my next post should be, I realized that maybe the day to day stories aren’t long or filled with philosophically deep thoughts. Sometimes they are short, sweet, and ridiculous. And sometimes they are short, sad, and incomplete.

I have a very young kid who smokes because he doesn’t “feel funny anymore” when he uses marijuana. I’m not positive that he is even aware of the long-term effects of his choices, or his time on probation.

I have another kid who smokes because every time he gets close to sobriety and back to playing his favorite sport (which he is still getting recruitment letters from college for even though he hasn’t played for a year), his older brother walks into his room with weed and pressures his brother to take a hit, resetting his fight against addiction. DCS won’t get involved because he is old enough to walk away.

This job is full of short stories that are part of much, much, larger stories. As I begin to write this blog, though, I am realizing that most of my stories are very sad. Unfortunately, this is the reality of many kiddos coming from lower socioeconomic status and criminogenic families. My interactions each day with these kids are amazing opportunities to learn perspectives that I may never have learned it from before, and this blog is an opportunity to give others the same choice to see something from a perspective that they may have never considered before. Here’s to having funny stories to share with you later.