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I don’t know how some of my students do it some times. The new semester has just begun, and I’ve probably had at least 8 new students come in, but just as many leave. I don’t remember seeing that many folks come and go during my years at my white suburban high school. While some students who left gave me notice – one is moving to LA because her single mother has fallen in love with some guy in LA – others vanish without a word. No balloons, no cards, no good bye.

Meanwhile, I’ve inherited all sorts of kids from different parts of California this semester. A few of them were rejected by other school districts for behavior issues, a few have just moved from one part of the state to this one, and a few whose stories I don’t yet know. Some come in with angry eyes ready to challenge my authority, others come in docile and ready to learn.

I know it’s a tired comparison, but a big high school is a lot like a choppy ocean. The bell rings, and waves of students flood the halls for 5 minutes, only to return back to their classrooms for the next bell (that’s the hope, anyways). Teachers, however, stay put in their classrooms, watching the waves of students crash and stay for awhile until the bell rushes them back out. I am the immobile observer standing on the beach, watching the swarms of students come in and out of my classroom, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. I haven’t been at this job for even a year yet but all this coming-and-going feels fatalistic in a way that I can’t explain. All I know is that the things that my students go through on a daily basis – from taking care of younger siblings to dealing with mom’s new love affair – force them to stay sharp and nimble to survive the large but anonymous ocean.


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