This I Believe

William - 80524, Colorado
Entered on November 8, 2007

I believe in the youth of America.

There is so much fear in education. It is a profession buried in a tsunami of frustration and disappointment over how America’s youth don’t measure up in mathematics, science, and the acquisition of languages.

As a public high school teacher, I always hear about the desperation and frustration over lack of funding, limited curriculums, gang problems, growing segregation between not only the races but also the rich and the poor. Whether attending a meeting with parents, administrators, curriculum planners, other teachers, or the teacher’s union – the same frustrations are heard.

However, I believe in the youth of America.

I work in a low-income, public, alternative high school in a small mid-western town. Alternative in this case means that the other alternatives are jail, rehab, or working just above minimum wage for the rest of my students’ lives.

But despite it all, my students come to class and sit attentively as I recite Tennyson, explain prepositions, discuss metaphors, and tell them how to site sources. Despite it all, my students learn how to do digital photography, video production, and how to write a resume. Despite it all, they learn how to think critically as they read books like Kite Runner, Fallen Angels, and Slaughterhouse Five. Despite poverty, sexual and physical abuse, parents who sell drugs, parents who are alcoholics, being teenage parents, having to support a family at seventeen, having been out of school for weeks or months at a time – my students still come. They come and sit patiently, respectfully, and with the sort of careful attention to class that only college professors expect. They don’t achieve the heights of academic learning, but they try. Walking to class, struggling with young children, working full time, or taking the bus – they come. They believe that a future that is better is possible. They believe that if only someone will care, they can achieve. For many of my students, they are the first person in their family to get a high school diploma. For many of my students, they will be the first person in their family to go to college.

Then, they come back. With a BA in computer programming, a BA in art, an associates in business, and an opening at a private hair saloon – they come back.

I believe in the youth of America.