Friday, February 08, 2008

What's it all about, Alfie?

{Note: This post was originally added to my personal blog last year and I have decided to share it over here as well. The reason it came to mind again today is because I learned that a Kindergarten student at my school lost his Mother to murder this week. It reminds me of many stories of struggle and tragedy that our students face.}

When I was little, I took piano lessons. I hated practicing songs that I didn't know. I remember when my Mom bought me a book that was simple versions of "songs from the 70's". I learned to play this song titled, "What's It All About, Alfie?"

This morning I found myself humming moment by moment at school revealed more and more horrible things. We were informed that a student would have to be tested one on one today. It seems this 12-year-old youngster was arrested last week on sexual battery charges on another student at my school!! Then another person came in and told us there was a second student being investigated on ANOTHER sexual battery charge in a totally unrelated incident. And if that wasn't enough, the Department of Children and Families is investigating two different families on horrific charges of child abuse.

THEY ARE KIDS!! Or are they?

This boy is 12 years old. His mug shot is on the police website for his arrest. Anyone can see it. The girl may attend our school as well. And I ask myself HOW does this happen?

I live in a relatively affluent city. Most of our schools are filled with upper middle class to the rich and wealthy kids. There are pockets, however, of total poverty here. My school represents one of those pockets. Many of our kids go home and don't always know where their next meal is coming from, where their parents are, and where they will sleep at night. Some learn crime from their older siblings, parents, and neighbors. Many have at least one parent who is incarcerated. Some have parents who speak little or no English. They simply came here looking for something better than they had in their country and they are doing the best they can to make their way in this place.

Regardless, the state testing continues. I get angry when I contrast the many children at my school who are sitting hungry, lonely, afraid and angry, in front of test booklets they cannot read today with those students in other schools across the city whose major concern is that they didn't get BOTH $180 pair of jeans this past weekend. It's true. Yet, those are the stories that no paper and pencil test results reveal.

They never have and they never will.

So, today, I find myself humming...."What's it all about?????" I don't know WHO Alfie is...or was...but when I looked at the lyrics this morning to see why this song was coming to my mind...I was a bit stunned:

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
then I guess it's wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
what will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there's something much more,
something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
and you'll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.
May we all find a way to reach out and extend love to someone less fortunate than us this week. May we learn to reach across racial and ethnic boundaries. May we find a way to bring light into darkness; love where there's hatred; hope where there's despair. After all, "without true love we just exist, Alfie...Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie!"

And, THAT'S what it's all about!!


Jenny said...

Beautiful post. I'm so sorry to hear of all the pain.

Ms. Mize said...

It is something to keep in mind while I am subbing. Most days are great! Some days are well not so great. One of the difficulties of being a sub is that I don't have the advantage of knowing the students I am teaching very well. I view each class that I am with as my class for the day. Some days it is much easier than others. On the more difficult days I am going to think about Alfie.

LisaC said...

At least they have a plan so the testing doesn't get interrupted. I mean, really, taking it one-on-one will totally make up for the fact that the kids has sexual assault and being arrested on his mind. I am SURE the results will be valid. :) Are they giving his 'victim' the same one-on-one testing advantage?

I teach in a school with fewer, but similar problems. (I am also basing that on the PB&J post you had a few days ago.) The testing makes me crazy because it is so unfair for these students to be judged in comparison to their peers who live in nice houses with nice parents who have the money to buy lunch.