I went to Franklin Middle School today for about 4 hours. Tough stuff. We started out (me and Chris) rearranging the letters on a bulletin board, dusting off and moving a filing cabinet...ya know, very meaningful jobs. I was getting discouraged, but suprisingly kept a good attitude about the prospect of being a teacher's aid/errand slave. Then we got to jump into some group discussions. Chris and I were talking to about 7 kids about positive thinking vs. negative thinking. Who controls their thinking...how our thoughts lead to action...thoughts=power and other very true, but very cliche ideas that this program was teaching them. and they all rolled their eyes and in various, um...colorful, but nonetheless unanimous ways said, "yeah right". they tried to explain to these two WHITE 20 somethings that we just don't get it. and we don't. i've never been beaten up and I've never really been tempted to beat anyone else up. although I'm sure a fight at Pt. Loma Naz. would have made headlines in the Point Weekly... I don't get where they're coming from and that makes it hard. We left with questions unresolved and probably some frustrated kids who are tired of being talked at about how to be good and followed and pressured by parole officers who are making sure that they don't do anything bad.
One interesting tangent in the conversation came about when one girl mentioned that she hates black people...for various reasons she had no problem listing off to all of her hispanic peers. I immediately questioned whether she realized she was talking about individuals as if all black people shared identical qualities...and asked whether she would make the same statement about her African American teacher were she sitting in our group instead of the other group directly behind us. She of course retracted her statement and said things like "some" and "most" black people are loud, cocky, etc. The real fun began when I asked her what she hates about white people. "I can't say"..."why not"..."because you're sitting right there". I told her I could take it and she proceded with a pretty good "air head" impersonation. Problem is, not all white girls are air heads. And the one Asian girl, who of course was a bit marginalized by an all hispanic group, and all hispanic class actually was more accurately identified by our group as Vietnamese. I remember last summer talking to the very wealthy boys I was babysitting on sunset cliffs that homeless people aren't scum (even if that's the term their dad used). They're people who happen to be homeless...but people first. my friend hanna's taught me over the past few years that if you look into peoples eyes, it absolutely changes your world...Christ lives in all of us...and it's AMAZING when you really get that.
I don't know if I'm helping here at Franklin or just frustrating a few of these kids towards further rebellion and trouble. It was definitely a first day. I hope the next few weeks can be more about compassion and listening and understanding....
It is encouraging to see the teachers and principals who care and have earned the respect that precedes a friendship with a lot of these kids.