Pinball Education

2012-02-15T17:58:22-08:00Categories: midlife|Tags: , , , |

News and Life are crashing around in my head right now. News, meaning the latest raft of “gap” stories: achievement gap, income gap, incarceration gap. Life, as in my daily life, which lately has included an hour a day at a public alternative high school. Seattle’s Interagency Academy, the school where I tutor writers, is no touchy-feely-type alternative school. For most of the students, it’s the school of last resort. They’ve bumped their way upward through the pinball machine of public education until, somewhere in high school, they slammed into a wall. Down the chute they went, fast-tracked right into the black hole of dropping out, if not for Interagency, a patchwork school of about ten tiny campuses, including a downtown youth employment program, the county’s juvenile detention facility and several agencies serving homeless teens.  I say “about” ten, because plans are always in the works to add new sites as new teen crises develop.  Teens fleeing prostitution, for example.  Or teens whose parents have recently been deported. Last Thursday, my classroom was empty. Of the seven students with whom I am currently working, zero showed up. It’s hard to describe the cascade of emotions this triggered in me.  The week was going well until then. Students were working hard, toiling over heartfelt essays on subjects ranging from peer pressure to why it’s unfair for your boss to make you go to work when you’re sick.  I have never had all seven show up on the same day, but I’ve had five or six.  Three or [...]