Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Playwrights - Session 1
Today my students began the Playwrights Project with our guest teacher, Miss Katie. I was able to just sit back and observe my students for the first time since my student teacher, Ms. Na'im, left before Christmas.
I heard my kids share a few very interesting comments in response to the scene that was presented by Miss Katie and the guest actors.
Jessica spoke about how many people believe foster youth are not given necessary supplies. She thinks a local business's commercials make it seem like all foster kids are poor, since they are constantly asking for donations of thing like shoes and school supplies for San Diego's foster children. She pointed out all foster youth homes, from Polinsky to San Pasqual have plenty of clothing. She said that the students on this campus actually have an abundance of supplies, thanks to people like Friends of San Pasqual. I have seen these commercials and always though it strange that they are asking for supplies, when my students never go without. I know that the county gives guardians of foster youth money for supplies, and the kids' judges are constantly making sure that the kids have everything they need. I am sure that there are other kids in the county who really need these donations. Besides, my kids don't need new shoes as much as they need mentors and other caring adults. However, it is much easier to write a check than schedule time to actually talk to a teenager. It frustrates me that our society so encourages philanthropy more than volunteerism. I know the local business means well, but maybe their employees could encourage each other to become mentors or foster parents. At least, they could have child-abuse prevention workshops for their employees.
Jonathan also made an interesting observation. He is frustrated that people think being a foster kid is a "one-in-a-million" thing. I think he was taking about people seeing him as a foster youth before noticing all of his other character traits, but I also understood a deeper meaning of his comment. Often, when I explain SPA to people I meet, they think that it must be the only home in the county for foster youth. However, there are many more foster youth in San Diego than the 138 kids on our campus. There are kids in group homes, foster homes, and institutions across the county. I image that there are foster kids attending almost every school in San Diego. I wish there were only 138 kids in need of loving and supportive homes. I wish the kids in Precious and The Blind Side were unique. But, my kids say that the abuse in these stories are typical of the abuse most of them have endured. It's sad that foster kids are hidden from mainstream society. People can't help fix the problems of child abuse and not enough homes for foster youth unless they know about it. People would be more likely to become foster parents, mentors, CASAs, or staff at homes for foster youth, if they knew there was such a huge need.
Robert K. made one of the most profound statements of the day. He expressed concern of a system that places children who were never abused in homes filled with children who survived abusive childhoods. Since he has been in the system since he was an infant, he says that he was never abused. Yet, he has been raised surrounded by children who tend to demonstrate challenging behaviors as a result of the abuse they suffered. It's like he was placed in an abusive family. He even mentioned that he feels like adults have been unable to fully teach him how to respond to, or cope with, situations that arise as a result of the abuse others have suffered. I had never thought of that! I had noticed that many of my students who have been in the system since they were very young tend to have more gaps in their education than those who entered the system at a later age. But, other than that, I hadn't really put much thought into the differences between my students based on how many years they have been in the system. Robert's comment really seemed to make sense. My kids' stories are all very different, and their needs are different--yet, they are all clumped together as "students at a residential school for foster youth." I am very aware that the system is not perfect, but there has to be a better way. This reminds me that I need to see the individuality in my students. Hopefully, my efforts will lead them to become adults capable of creating the change necessary to change the foster youth system. Well, at least I can hope that they at least begin to decrease need for the foster system. Or, they can always dream big and earn enough money to buy some shoes for little Precious and Michael.