by Pearl Arredondo
So I grew up in East Los Angeles， not even realizing I was poor. My dad was a highranking gang member who ran the streets. Everyone knew who I was， so I thought I was a pretty big deal， and I was protected， and even though my dad spent most of my life in and out of jail， I had an amazing mom who was just fiercely independent. She worked at the local high school as a secretary in the deans office， so she got to see all the kids that got thrown out of class， for whatever reason， who were waiting to be 1）disciplined. Man， her office was packed.
So， see， kids like us， we have a lot of things to deal with outside of school， and sometimes were just not ready to focus. But that doesnt mean that we cant. It just takes a little bit more. Like， I remember one day I found my dad 2）convulsing， foaming at the mouth， 3）OD-ing on the bathroom floor. Really， do you think that doing my homework that night was at the top of my priority list？ Not so much.
But I really needed a support network， a group of people who were going to help me make sure that I wasnt going to be a victim of my own circumstance， that they were going to push me beyond what I even thought I could do. I needed teachers， in the classroom， every day， who were going to say， “You can move beyond that.” And unfortunately， the local junior high was not going to offer that. It was gang-infested， huge teacher turnover rate.
So my mom said， “Youre going on a bus an hour and a half away from where we live every day.” So， for the next two years， thats what I did. I took a school bus to the fancy side of town. And eventually， I ended up at a school where there was a mixture. There were some people who were really gang-4）affiliated， and then there were those of us really trying to make it to high school. Well， trying to stay out of trouble was a little unavoidable. You had to survive. You just had to do things sometimes. So there were a lot of teachers who were like， “Shes never going to make it. She has an issue with authority. Shes not going to go anywhere.” Some teachers completely wrote me off as a lost cause.
But then， they were very surprised when I graduated from high school. I was accepted to Pepperdine University， and I came back to the same school that I attended to be a special ed assistant.
And then I told them， “I want to be a teacher.”
And boy， they were like， “What？ Why？ Why would you want to do that？”
So I began my teaching career at the exact same middle school that I attended， and I really wanted to try to save more kids who were just like me. And so every year， I share my background with my kids， because they need to know that everyone has a story， everyone has a struggle， and everyone needs help along the way. And I am going to be their help along the way.
So as a 5）rookie teacher， I created opportunity. I had a kid one day come into my class having been stabbed the night before.
I was like， “You need to go to a hospital， the school nurse， something.”
Hes like， “No， Miss， Im not going. I need to be in class because I need to graduate.” So he knew that I was not going to let him be a victim of his circumstance， but we were going to push forward and keep moving on. And this idea of creating a safe haven for our kids and creating getting to know exactly what theyre going through， getting to know their families—I wanted that， but I couldnt do it in a school with 1，600 kids， and teachers turning over year after year after year. How do you get to build those relationships？
So we created a new school. And we created the San Fernando Institute for Applied Media. And we made sure that we were still attached to our school district for funding， for support. But with that， we were going to gain freedom： freedom to hire the teachers that we knew were going to be effective； freedom to control the curriculum so that were not doing lesson 1.2 on page five， no； and freedom to control a budget， to spend money where it matters， not how a district or a state says you have to do it.
So in our third year， how did we do it？ Well， were making school worth coming to every day. We make our kids feel like they matter to us. We make our curriculum rigorous and relevant to them， and they use all the technology that theyre used to. Laptops， computers， tablets—you name it， they have it. Animation， software， moviemaking software， they have it all. And because we connect it to what theyre doing—For example， they made 6）public service announcements for the Cancer Society. These were played in the local trolley system. Teaching elements of persuasion， it doesnt get any more real than that. Our state test scores have gone up more than 80 points since weve become our own school.
But its taken all stakeholders， working together. Because why should our students have to go so far away from where they live？ They deserve a quality school in their neighborhood， a school that they can be proud to say they attend， and a school that the community can be proud of as well. And they need teachers to fight for them every day and empower them to move beyond their circumstances. Because its time that kids like me stop being the exception， and we become the norm.
可他说：“我不去，老师，我不要去。我得来上课，因为我想要毕业。”所以说，他知道我不会让他成为其自身困境下的牺牲品，相反，我们要敦促他们向前迈进和继续前行。 所以，我是想为孩子们营造一个安全的环境，想准确了解他们所经历的困境，想了解他们的家庭——我希望能这样做，但是，在一所学生人数达1600人的学校里我无法做得到。而且，年复一年，这里的老师更换频繁。 你又怎么能建立师生关系呢？