I work in a school which only takes students
in the last 2 years of high school, so the students are aged 16 - 18
years. In this, my last post on MCMM, I would like to pay tribute to
the determined students who make it through these last 2 years of
school without parental support. They are gutsy, self-motivated
teenagers, who are doin' it for themselves.
Often these students don't achieve the highest results, often their situation is trivialised by teachers who have never truly been alone and without family support, often these students act as though they're really tough - and they are, just not in the way most people think. Show these students just a little care, and it's surprising how close to the surface their soft side is.
I know the stress my daughter feels at the demands placed on her as a final year student, yet she has me to do her shopping, her cooking, her transporting, her provision of electricity and heating/cooling. I wake her each morning, I remind her to go to bed if the hour is getting late.
These students have none of that support. Often their absentee rate is higher than it should be, but gee, when you live in a town with a virtually non-existent public transport system like we do, missing the school bus makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to make your way to school. And it can be really hard to drag yourself out of bed when the alarm rings if you've worked late in the sweltering heat of a pizza shop, or stacking supermarket shelves, the night before.
I know other students live between separated parents, one week at each house. When you're working on major art projects, this can be a problem. The camera their mother owns, which they use at her house, isn't able to be used the next week at their father's house. The computer they save information on changes from week to week. It's easy to leave a text book at a house you won't be in for another week, and by then the assessment task deadline may have passed.
One student I know has 2 blind, autistic brothers, one of them a large and violent 15 year old, and another brother on the ADHD spectrum. The 4 children swap parent's houses each week. Their parents are not on friendly terms and don't make this change easy - even after 8 years. A teacher of this student spotted me chatting to her recently and asked if I knew anything about her as she hadn't been able to quite work out what made the student tick and why she was a little erratic. When I outlined her circumstances the teacher was shocked, as the student had never even hinted at any kind of difficulty in her life. I pointed out that this life was all the student had ever known. It was her normal. The student has no idea of how extraordinary she is. This teacher, one of the many who are helpful and caring, is now supporting the student in subtle ways; keeping back up data on her computer, providing loan equipment, and a little extra unspoken understanding.
There are many students who cope with unseen extraordinary circumstances who never receive understanding or help, let alone the accolades they deserve. Many of them don't want their circumstances known, for they don't want to draw attention to themselves, their only wish is to blend in, to be normal.
If these teenagers can finish their schooling and get to university, they will have achieved what many, many students with no difficulties to overcome at all, lack the will to do. These teenagers are far from ordinary and have every chance of becoming extraordinary adults with much to offer our world. Maybe they will merely succeed in becoming ordinary. That in itself will be extraordinary.