Jan 6, 2013


West Side High School – Open House

Manhattan is no place to drive or park so hubby drops me off in front of the school. Anticipation climbs the stairs with me and hope slowly replaces the tired wax look on my face. Perhaps this is good news. Our daughter is here at West Side to makeup the credits needed and get her high school diploma and she can do it in two semesters… a nagging voice pushed to the lower back of my head predicts the contrary and so I brace myself on this walk through the mazing hallways to the cafeteria for parents teachers and counselors face-off.

Open Houses, parent/teacher conferences and school centered activities have been my steppingstones as a parent; meeting the teachers having them praise and guide my child forward were at times valuable confirmations of pluses or minuses of parenting skills and work in progress. Spoken and written communication generated time for reflection on improvements and viable ways to raise intelligent, proud and productive individuals.

In fourth grade the tale-tell signs of a dark unstable future reared its hideous head, it sprouted on her loud statement that she was an atheist, her teacher’s reaction and attitude prompted her outcast with fourth graders turning against and away from her. She found herself alone unable to understand and deal with loneliness (this from an introvert, a loner) or take pride in who she was and build on it. She soon succumbed to the need to belong and follow, family love, talk and support did not make the problems go away and I believe that us, the family have a hand in creating an unstable dependent individual, a monster who learned to cry and use drama to her dis/advantage.

7grade came on its head when a troubled classmate bullied her crushing an already fragile sense of being into self loathe and anger. All that with the tacit facilitation of her school that limited the help to what the law prescribed took no extra step walked no extra inch but blamed the attacks on her. Pain and misery turned us into helpless on lookers to her plunge for acceptance and validation, the gutter avalanche; wrong crowd, drugs, alcohol, sex and idiocy. Psychologists, counselors even a visit to the mental clinic of Cornell did not alleviate the pain nor did it trip her downfall. Yet, I, a self-made optimist refuse to give up and give in for give it all I’ve got, so here I am an incorrigible utopian slithering down West Side hallways hoping to hear the long overdue “good” news about my daughter’s turnaround.

I force myself to smile at security guards, and school staffers working hard to reach troubled students and lead them on the right path. I am on both sides of the education fence, a mother and an educator, I teach in the hard to staff area of Bushwick, I can relate to both tired teachers and desperate parents. We’re all consumed by a harder than ever duty to educate lost, society confused and damaged young minds. 

Across the table from two young professionals; a teacher and a counselor I slump, my daughter’s transcript trembles in my hand, it’s bad news all over again! And gaining the necessary credits for graduation seems not to be the biggest concern her teachers have… she misses classes even when in school.. she swipes her card in the early morning hours but does not show up to class, she sleeps in the locker room… rolled up and spaced out on a hard and narrow bench!

“Her brain is fried!” Blurts the young teacher over the few inches table and yet a world away. The expression on my face must scream volumes for the two look at each other and spontaneously turn to call a male teacher seated nearby. He re-explains the issues adding details and glaring across to his peers, I bow my head to escape the blow and to let it all sink in…

“Her brain is fried?” 

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