It was August, just a week or so into the school year. We were studying academic essays, and, as usual, we digressed.
In a classroom of 6 students, there were 2 young black men, 3 Latinos, and a white boy.
“Miss, I am so sick of people askin’ me when I’m gonna change!”
“Okay, can you say more about where that’s coming from?”
“Yeah, so like, people in books are always changing and doin’ better. And it’s irritatin'”
“Why does that irritate you?”
“Because, Miss, I go home and my mom is like ‘When are you gonna change?’ and my parole officer asks me ‘Why don’t you change?’ and my family gets on me, tellin’ me to change and it’s just like – when are YOU gonna change?!”
“I would expect you probably get that a lot, can you tell me why you think they should change?”
“I know I wouldn’t be here if my mom could buy us food and take care of us. And I KNOW if I actually had a dad that was around and providin’ like he should be, that I wouldn’t have to do the bad stuff to make it so we can eat or so my family’s okay. I know that for a fact.”
His peers all agree, chiming in with “Yeah!” “Same.” and “Mine too.”
They know they should change. They come here, into my classroom, aware of the changes they need to make. And if they aren’t committed to a facility, they’re sent home – back to the very same situation that got them here in the first place. And so it continues.