As another school year winds down, those of us in urban education are in the midst of experiencing what we call "summer street syndrome". Basically this means that our students (who are mostly black, Hispanic, and poor) are not only preparing to leave school, but preparing to survive on the streets. When school gets out, their safe place is gone - as is their source of breakfast and lunch - as well as the people in their lives who provide love, structure, and discipline (aka "teachers").
When June begins, we shudder. Students who were involved, and committed to their studies throughout the year, suddenly stop studying - or doing any work for that matter. They become angry, hair trigger, and begin fronting. They're putting on a show for the students in school who may be involved in gangs or on the fringe. Some students even begin acting like they're in gangs - even though they're not - and change their posture, attitude, and way of dress. It truly is a metamorphosis - and not a good one.
I have a student who was an "A" student up until around April. Then, it happened. He began coming to school with a sneer on his face, and a new swagger and attitude. The funny thing is, he would pass me in the hallway, when no other students were around, and smile, then shake my hand. An hour or so later he would walk into my classroom, and curse at me. One day I asked him to complete an assignment and he threw the paper in my face and yelled Fu%k you!"
There was a video posted on Youtube a few weeks ago of a New Jersey teacher getting beaten up by a student. The teacher had taken the boy's phone, and the student proceeds to throw the man on the floor. Watch the video, and make sure you watch the students. Not a single student moves to help the teacher. At the very end, you finally hear a voice off camera ask "Should I get security?" The reason no one helps the man is because they're afraid of the consequences after school. The streets come into the classroom.
Teaching inner city kids is tough - and teachers who sign up to do it know that. But this time of the year is the toughest of all. When other teachers begin relaxing a bit, and wrapping it up, those of us in urban classrooms go on high alert.