Schools across the US have primarily one purpose – to prepare students for what comes after high school. Not every student has the same plan after high school. Success doesn’t necessarily mean that every student goes on to college, although that may be a goal for many students. Some students may be ready to enter the workforce immediately after high school. There are many options.
What happens when students spend time in high school varies tremendously. Students are affected by such things as location of their high schools. Small rural high schools are vastly different from inner city high schools in a large metropolis. Other factors that may vary are socioeconomic status of the students, whether students attend a public or private school, extracurricular opportunities, and types of support staff offered at a given school just to name a few things.
One thing that is true for all students in high school across this great land is that they are all part of intricate stories playing out in our high schools. Many teachers write books about their own teaching experiences such as Ed Boland did in The Battle for Room 314.: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School.
Boland was intricately involved in the world of fundraising. He had a passion to raise money for disadvantaged students and in part through his efforts many disadvantaged students were given opportunities of a lifetime. Many went on to Ivy League schools and successful careers. At some point, Boland wasn’t satisfied with just fundraising and decided he actually wanted to teach disadvantaged students. This book differs from others of it’s type in which a first year teacher takes over a classroom and wins educational victories. In Boland’s case, this is a story of an idealistic first year teacher meeting reality head on and trying to figure out how to navigate through a broken educational system that is seriously failing students. For anyone wishing to get a big dose of reality of what American high school is like in our large cities, this is the book for you.
The next story I came to was very different. In light of all of the recent school shootings, this is a heart wrenching book worth taking a look at. It is written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters from Columbine High School. This mother agonizes over what went wrong.
Dylan Klebold and Eric shot and killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School. They also wounded 24 other people before taking their own lives. Dylan’s mother was as horrified as everyone else but had the added stigma of being a shooter’s mother. For about 16 years, Sue Klebold poured over all of Dylan’s possessions looking for clues as to how (or if) she had missed warning signs. How could her child be involved in something so horrific? Could she have stopped it? Sue lived with grief and shame and shares how she began to come to grips with what happened.
I did not personally know anyone at Columbine, but I do personally know some of Rachel Scott’s family. Rachel was one of the first victims. She was shot for her faith, making her one of the first American Christian martyrs. There is a movie about the Columbine shootings and shows how Rachel became a victim. I highly recommend the movie I’m Not Ashamed.
Years before Columbine ever happened, I was working as a Special Education teacher in a Middle School. One of my students was labeled Learning Disabled/Gifted. He was a very bright student who had some academic struggles. Rex (obviously not his real name) was also a very troubled young man. He was extremely bright-and had absolutely no conscience. I remember telling other teachers that Rex was either going to end up a multi-billionaire or in jail. He was the type of student who was bored easily and would try inappropriate things just to see if he could get away with them. His plots could be elaborate. Though I tried not to show it, I always had one eye on Rex. I was tipped off by another student that Rex was planning something during a school dance–one that I happened to be chaperoning. I knew Rex…I informed the administration about his possible plot during the dance, and sure enough all adult eyes were on him that evening and an unloaded gun was confiscated from him at the dance. Thankfully no students were harmed during this incident and Rex was disarmed easily. I do not know if he brought ammo with him, but his offense was enough to get him expelled from the school. It was actually quite sad. I lost track of Rex but it would not surprise me at all if he ended up a career criminal. Rather than actually chaperoning the dance that night, I ended up doing all sorts of paperwork trying to get Rex placed in a different school where hopefully he could also get in depth emotional help.
Do you have a true school story you’d like to share? Do you have a favorite true school story?