Sisters from Shaw
Lena Gabucci is an eighteen-year-old daughter of Italian immigrants who moved to Shaw, Mississippi with the dream of working their own land on their own terms. Uninterested in continuing her parents’ lifestyle, she questions life around her as she guides her six younger siblings through the 1940’s and 1950’s while trying to establish her own purpose in an ever changing world. Her younger sister Tena is the beautiful, yet restless one of the family who, at age thirteen, frequently comes home during the middle of the night convinced their Mama doesn’t know. This questionable behavior catches up with her, and eventually she calls on Lena to help her come to terms with her choices in life. Their other sister Paula, sits quietly waiting for her life to happen. She meets the man of her dreams at an early age and falls deep for him despite her sisters’ hesitations. Through these three sisters’ bond, they are able to discover who they are as individuals instead of being categorized as women who are obedient and diligent homemakers.
Seventeen-year-old Amber Malley’s suicide sparks the depression that has been buried within English teacher Kristen Hunter. The single mother of two struggles to cope with the loss of this student while coming to terms with her failed marriage that she denies to acknowledge. With a Here/Gone contrast creating momentum between chapters, Kristen’s past experiences allows her to face her present struggles. These chapters are told through parallel third person narratives, to weave stories of depression through generations, as well as from various perspectives. Kristen’s father, Paul, deals with the rejection he received from his mother starting the moment he was born until he was two-years-old, along with the deaths of his best friend and wife. Amber’s mother, Mary Alice, ignores the truth behind her daughter’s death; instead, she decides to sue the teacher who encouraged the composition of Amber’s suicide note. Within weeks of Amber’s death, another student commits suicide by walking into a train as a result of rejecting his father’s new marriage. How will Kristen handle the guilt she feels contributes to these situations? To what degree does she hold herself responsible?
From Bear Googles On
180 Days: How to Foster Student Growth (During the 2016-2017 School Year)
Parents and educators can both agree – it is not easy raising a child. Why do some parents act combative towards teachers when all we both want is to see this child succeed? Why do some parents avoid their role whenever contact is initiated by the school? Why do some openly engage in the dialogue with their child’s teachers?
By the time students enter high school, poor habits are well-rooted, but with some weeding with slight modifications, all hope is not lost. 180 Days to Foster Student Success illustrates the day to day work of a high school English teacher who drew upon previous years for advice on how to handle current situations. Told from my perspective, the narrative refers to specific students, names have been changed, and their specific situations that are encouraging or discouraging their ability to thrive in school.
Oscar is a freshman student who came from a private middle school. Over the year, he struggles in trying to earn the A that he thought came easy for him. But through parent correspondence, with both his mother and father, and morning study sessions, he realizes that he was unprepared for the rigor of high school English.
Junior year hands Mike a challenging year; not only does he try to stay on top of his academic work, but his mother has a brain tumor on top of her Crohn’s disease. At least he is not alone, his twin brother Matt, handle this stressful situation together, but their mother’s failing health has caused them to experience depression. Via email, their mother contacts me to help lift her boys’ spirits; I do through a loving hand to get them a much needed parking pass, a night out with the school for a Varsity baseball game at Gary South Shore Railcats stadium, and provide them with summer reading books.
Upon Nicole graduating eighth grade, she is used to earning A’s on her written assignments, but when second semester’s curriculum demands increase from single paragraph responses to timed five-paragraph essays, her mother demands to see me a week before the spring parent teacher conferences. As a result of her behavior at the school and by sending a demanding email, she has been placed on the no trespassing list and given a citation for her conduct. But after working closely with me, Nicole knows how to expand her writing skills by developing her critical thinking of a text and from incorporating various writing techniques from books read to craft her writing style.
Harrison is a junior who messed up his freshman year, spent his sophomore year at an academy in a separate school that is part of the same district, and has returned to his home school. Quickly, he falls into his routine of easing into a position for sleep during lessons that require complete engagement. In working with his single-parent mom, he is able to take ownership of his learning, which alters his attitude towards his education.
For the years before coming to TF South, Peter was home schooled. With his lack of social skills, he becomes easily influenced by his peers. Despite his parents’ active interest, he manages to find trouble causing him to be removed and placed at an alternative school by first semester’s end.
These are five of eighty students I talk about over the duration of the 2016-2017 school year, which marked my sixteenth year of teaching at Thornton Fractional High School, District 215, in Lansing, Illinois.
All that we, as teachers, ask is for parents to actively contribute to their children’s education. I did not join this profession to be a glorified babysitter nor was I to be one’s second mother. Where had the trust gone within this partnership? I was not the one “out to get students,” but I held them accountable to what they need to learn and refuse to bend the rules or expectations simply because it was easier. By doing so, I would have failed as a teacher. My students, who I consider to be my kids, would never be prepared for anything life hands them in a passing run. I’m sure that their parents would not be there forever to make sure their child makes the touchdown on each and every first drive. So what is that child to do when he or she grows older? I’m sure many of them will quit in life, love, work, and anything that presents a challenge if his or her parent consistently hovers to knit-pick and intervene. Through these various interactions with parents and their children, other parents and teachers, can learn how to make a successful partnership.