Many of you have probably heard me reference my experience teaching English at a maximum security jail for boys. I often reflect on this time as being my best teaching experience and, subsequently, the catalyst in my desire to become an administrator. It was this experience that forced me to acknowledge and analyze stereotypical views that I unknowingly had about incarcerated youth. Prior to their incarceration, these young men were students in public schools across the Commonwealth.
As educational professionals, I often find that we spend more time with our students during the week than their own parents/guardians. I don’t write this to dismiss or rationalize any crimes that the boys committed, but, rather to prompt a reflection and possible dialogue on ways in which we as educators can help. If you have ever had to search a student, place a student on long-term suspension, testify against a student, or witness a student being handcuffed and escorted out of the school by a member of the police department, you understand my despair and frustration. That is somebody’s child…somebody with unrealized potential.
When these young men were in the classroom, were they actually seen? Did anyone notice them falling through the cracks? Was there anything that the teacher or administrator could have said or done to inspire and motivate these kids towards focusing on academic success? I don’t have the answers, but I have a lot of questions.