It only takes one book to change the way you see things. For me, it was a book by Harper Lee. “You have to step on another person’s shoes and walk around in them”
Many teachers have taken the classics out of the classroom like “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Diary of Anne Frank”. This is why I love teaching in a non public school. I get to choose what they read based on the lessons they will hopefully walk away with. I make sure there are questions through out the book, weekly quizzes, a final test and an essay to write at the end. I create the quizzes, the syllabus and the vocabulary sheets.
The class just finished a book called, “I Am Malala”. It’s about that young girl from Pakistan who was advocating for education for girls and got shot in the head. I remember how it seemed the world was amazed by this young girl and her plight. Then the world watched as news came that Binazir Bhutto, the female prime minister of Pakistan, had gotten killed after returning from a 9 year exile. The final blow was when Malala had gotten shot. A child of 16 who just finished her final exams of the year and was on her way home.
The book had some great themes such as the desire for an education when the world around you is falling apart. The practice of Islam from the people’s point of view and from Malala’s family’s practice. Evil versus true faith. How man built up laws around the Qua ran the same way they built up laws around God’s 10 laws. The way women saw themselves and how they were persecuted and targeted by the “new Islamic order”. Also how familiar this all sounds to those who have read “Anne Frank: the Diary of a young girl”. Which is why that is the next book we are reading currently.
You may ask why I bother to teach these books to a room full of youth who have made some poor decisions in their lives, such as stealing, not going to school, breaking and entering, or even possession charges. They need to be exposed to other children who have had it worse than them. Many American kids are spoiled. They have never had to learn how to duck under a desk when they hear bombs. They have never had to live in fear that someone may come and shoot them. They have never had to dig in a rubbish bin for food. They have never had to hide for years because of a dictator who practiced pogrom.
Most of the children that I work with have a parent or a relative that cares for them, clothes them, and feeds them, to the best of their abilities. If we see a chance to help and improve their way of living then we do all we can. We send social service people to help the parents or guardians organize themselves and maybe be stronger in parenting. Many youth that I come across seem have control of adults. They tell me they were taught, ” you give me respect then I’ll give you respect” . They have little respect for authority figures because the adults in their lives are more their friends than their parents. We teach them they are children and we are the adults and there really is a difference. However, as long as parents/guardians don’t enforce rules, and teach them that they can do adult things, there will always be a JSS court system and juvenile multipurpose group homes.
If the parents/guardians make the change, the youth have a much better chance at staying on the right path. However, if the adults fail, we try to teach the youth what they need to do for themselves.
I do what ever I can to show the youth how other families handle hard lives. I pray that something from one of the books may affect a child enough to have them want to change the way they look at life. To always do the right thing. To have faith and education. To treat others with respect first in order to get that respect in return.
It just takes one book to help someone change their view of things. Maybe, it will be one of these books for the youth that come through our group home.