The List

As I sit here watching these little turkey-butts take their state-mandated tests, I am reflecting on the various issues that have brought them to me.  Here I will list phrases used on our placement information sheet and the number of times each is used if more than once, or if privacy allows.  This is out of twenty students–some have more than one of the listed concerns:

–behavior (9)
–anger (3)
–social skills (3)
–diagnosed ADHD–medicated (4), unmedicated (3) 
–Special Education Services (some)
–Behavior Support Plan (2)
–county health services (1)
–outside counseling services–current (2), lapsed (4)
–low academics (6)
–low grades (9)
–English Language Learner (4)
–504 Plan (2)
–GATE (1)
–father in and out of rehab
–administratively placed due to incident throwing rock at teacher
–in new foster home (first time placed with all siblings), visitations with mom
–defiance and disrespect (4)
–anxious about assignments (2)
–refused to complete over 90% of assigned work
–tardies and unexcused absences (3)
–claims gang affiliation (3)
–administratively placed for buying/possessing marijuana 
–both parents deceased within last few years
–administratively placed for two incidences involving possession of a razor at school with intention to use it on a student
–lives in a group home
–administratively placed for possession of drug paraphernalia
–concerns regarding abuse in the home (3)
–impulsive–medicated (1), unmedicated (2)
–on probation due to break and enter and drug possession 
–lack of interest in school, highly sexualized
–father seriously ill
–threatening behavior toward other students 
–selective mute
–difficulty focusing–no diagnosis (2)
–mother supportive, father in and out, 
–retained then socially promoted, physically mature, emotionally immature
–placed in foster care due to neglect, is now back home
–mother seriously ill

What troubles me most as I created this list is the inner battle I have with myself.  I don’t want to describe my students by their issues.  I could easily create a list twice as long with their strengths.  I lean on their myriad strengths all day every day. Realistically though, it is not those strengths that brought them to me.  This list of concerns is still a day-to-day reality for each of them.  I can love them, teach them, and build on their strengths  (and call them George?). I can be positive, caring and supportive, but this list will still slap them in the face when they go home.  So do I play “Pollyanna” and ignore the list?  

My choice?  I spend the large percentage of each day focusing on the strengths and skills they have, they need, they might be able to develop.  I keep in mind, however, that there are always mitigating factors. While they are not excuses, they are reality.  I don’t pity them, judge them, or pretend to know what they have gone through, but I keep this list in mind when making decisions each day.  That’s where I am in the inner battle as of this day. 

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