I wrote this post back on the 11th March. I never put it here. I should have but I didn't.
Anyway here it is... after tonight's weeny shock at seeing one of my students in his colours with the other members at the supermarket... think tonight is just as pertinent as any to share this. If anything it hardens my resolve to find a way through to this particular class where it's such an issue daily.
An open message to all gang prospects, gang members who entice younger high school students and their leaders who allow this to happen:
Every day I am happy to see my students walk through the door of our classroom. I am passionate about wanting them to learn and believe that they can achieve. To push them forward to be the best possible them that they can be.
The issue I see every day is my students kowtowing to my other students in hopes to become a new member or within their mode of operandi as prospects. These students happen to be among my wide list of awesome students and it breaks my heart that they only see this as a possible future for themselves. That they give up working on their beautiful art and creative writing or drama and dance because it supposedly doesn't help in their future lives.
Our students deserve more than this. They deserve whanau who believe they are capable of achieving more than they ever possibly dreamed of. Our students try their very best in class and work hard to learn the behaviours appropriate in each class and at school. They push themselves to please us as sometimes we're the only happy face to see them during their day or they trust us and believe that we'll have their best interests at heart.
Whanau, I know you all want the best for them too - but at the end of the day - we need to break the cycle. And it starts with all of us. To find a place of calm and understanding and know that there is a better place out there for them. To let them be free to make their own choices (albeit whether that means they choose to stay in the gang as that's the only life they know).
Believe in them. They are more than what you may see. They are talented and wonderful kids who ache to have someone tell them this. They crave encouragement. They literally sparkle when you encourage them and tell them you believe in them. Let them see the world and all its joys and hardtimes too. But most of all - let them be kids. Don't force them into something because that's how it was for you.
I'm proud to teach our students. I care about each and every single one. I will always do my absolute best to advocate for the safety and happiness of every one of my students - past, present and future kids.
Just give them a chance to see the opportunities awaiting them.
Alex Le Long