It has been one year since I started working with the kids at Trevitt Elementary through BCEC. As a junior in college, I only have one more year with these kids and BCEC. We have accomplished so much this past year and fought so hard to do right by these kids. Yet, there is still so far to go until some of these kids are no longer living in poverty, testing inferiorly, emotionally distressed, and going hungry.
So what did we do this year? We did science experiments such as making slime, trying to squeeze as many water droplets on a penny as possible, dissolving eggshells in vinegar, and extracting DNA from strawberries. We celebrated many holidays, from the Fourth of July to Martin Luther King Day to Christmas. We made posters about bullying, important historical figures, body systems, American history, and animals. We practiced and practiced for standardized tests by reading passages of poetry, nonfiction, history and nature. We made multiplication flash cards, solved problems with fractions and learned how to divide. We learned how to write an essay and what an adjective was. We learned how to deal with situations that hurt our feelings, such as when someone hits you or calls you a bad name. We learned how and why we should respect others. We learned how to play with each other and how to be friends with others of all genders, ages, and races.
Trevitt is a failing school (both academically and behaviorally), and it is a huge problem that many have been trying to solve. However, I honestly do not see an improvement in the school as a whole. Elementary kids (remember, they are 5-11 years old) are being suspended for days at a time, and no effort is made to prevent future problems. Violence is often seen as the only way to solve problems, and kids don’t know how to self-regulate. There are staff members at Trevitt that I absolutely appreciate and enjoy corresponding with. But there are those that I have my differences with. When we first started at Trevitt, we were placed in the library. My first thought was “Great! Now when the kids are done with their work, they can grab a book off the shelf and practice reading.” Nope. Kids are not allowed to even touch the books, let alone read them. The reasoning? These kids will vandalize, steal, or lose these books. I obviously am not going to name names, but there are multiple adults at Trevitt who treat these students like criminals and give them labels without being willing to change them. So the kids at Trevitt are failing their reading tests, but they are yelled at for reading the books in the library? That makes perfect sense. I know that I am not perfect either, and I realize that I have only been at the school for a year and I am not there everyday. But being there has made me realize that these types problems are not cause by one or two factors. They are caused by neglect, poor nutrition, inadequate administration, biases, politics, laziness, inattention, and pride. The one thing I was not expecting to do at the school (and still have trouble wrapping my head around) is playing politics with adults. I cannot tell you how many times staff has gotten offended or their pride has been wounded, and that has hindered the way that kids get treated. In order to do my job, I have found that I not only have to cater to the children, but the adults as well. But shouldn’t our first and only reason for doing everything be to better the lives of these kids?
These kids have come a long way, but they have such a long road ahead of them. All we can do is fight for their right to have an equal education, a stable household, nutritious food to eat, proper clothes to wear, and emotional health. A couple of months ago, in correspondence with one of my co-workers, he ended his email with the quote “Keep fighting the good fight.” It just so happened that that week was one of the toughest at Trevitt and I was having a really hard time moving past the challenges I faced that week. We weren’t even talking about my challenges but it just happened to be exactly what I needed to hear. These 5 words were enough for me to instantly feel more encouraged and put things into perspective. The work that every single one of us does is truly a FIGHT. It is a fight against those who do not share our passion and who actively work to hinder us. It is a fight for those who are not strong enough to fight for themselves. It is exhausting and tiring and frustrating and heartbreaking. But is also enlightening, empowering, and life-changing. To witness firsthand that you are making a change in the lives of others is a feeling that is priceless and so encouraging. It is a GOOD fight. And there is nothing else I would rather do.