On a cabinet behind my desk in my classroom, I have a collage of photos of my family taped all over one of the cabinet doors. There are pictures of me with my wife, me with my wife and two kids, pictures of my two kids; both by themselves and together.
Today in class, a black female student took an extended gander at all the photos behind me and then asked in all seriousness, "Is that yo girlfriend?" I even had her point to who exactly she was talking about, and she pointed at my wife. Again, the student was dead serious with her question.
Think about that for a moment. It didn't even cross this student's mind that the woman in my photos - the woman sitting next to me and holding our children - could be my wife. This student just automatically assumed that Mrs. Chanman was my girlfriend. When you look at the statistics, I'm not surprised that my student would think this way. According to the Brookings Institution, 85% of black children can expect to spend all or some of their childhood in a single-parent family, and almost 70% of America's black children are born outside of marriage. Overall, 37% of all of America's children are born out of wedlock. This is not one our country's finer trends. I continue to find it interesting to think that my kids are practically a minority in that they live with both parents who are married to each other in their first and only marriage. This is light years away from what a huge number of students at my school experience.
This student of mine is not an easy one to deal with. I have given up calling her mother with the expectation that it will do any good; the mother always tells me that she doesn't know what else to do with her daughter. So now I just make the obligatory phone call when I suspend this student from my classroom for a day or two. The father? He's in prison.
My job can often be a perpetual bummer as I watch these underparented youths try to make their way in the world while I try my hardest to counter this deluge of social pathology by offering my knowledge of history and life experience that I have accrued during my 34 years in this world. Taking on all of this is like trying to empty the ocean with a shot glass. All I can do is keep on scooping.
Good Day to You, Sir