“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” –Aristotle
The unfortunate truth is that for some students, the very place where education is supposed to be fostered can be a toxic environment for a variety of reasons. Some of these issues include delinquency, indolence in the classroom, and the inability for teachers and administrators to monitor and fix such issues. Often these issues lead to traumatic side effects for students that inherently hinder their ability to learn and comprehend material. Some sources of this can include consistent bullying in school or having someone close to them passing away.
One example involved a young boy witnessing his mother being domestically abused by his stepfather. This lead not only him suffering in the classroom, but also issues with creating friendships and even concentrating on something as simple as a television show. This demonstrates that even witnessing abuse on the ones we love can be just as detrimental as if it were occurring first hand. Fortunately, the boy was able to see a social worker and receive counseling with his mother after forcing the abusive influence out of their household. Instances like this evince the necessity of school counseling, since often the people involved are unwilling to open up in a public manner or seek out help themselves.
Often, examples of traumatic experiences can lead to an outward expression of deleterious behavior, which is generally easy to pick up on. However, it can be incredibly difficult to pick up on signs where the student tends to deal with issues in an introverted or depressed manner. With these instances, questionnaires are utilized to pick up on signs of trauma with students who do not exhibit obvious behavior. When children emit answers consistent with behavioral signs of traumatic experiences, social workers were assigned to meet with them without knowing exactly what the students were going through.
Many occurrences included examples of severe domestic violence in the environment in which the students were living. Often, immigrant families are forced to live in large apartment complexes, affectionately known as projects. Typically, these are not the safest environments for a child to grow up in, especially if they are not familiar with this country. Crime has found to be rampant in these complexes and it typically serves as an extreme distraction for students when they are fearful of their safety at home.
One potential solution to this problem revolves around low-income housing. This creates access for families to send their children to better school systems and avoid some of the dangers of low-quality housing found in dangerous urban areas. Often, the complaints of these developments come from tenants complaining about the decline in their own houses. However, these are often families who have high incomes to begin with and have been able to sustain a successful living by their own means. Housing that is affordable for the lower tiers of society ensures equality of opportunity with public education. Urban schools tend not to perform as well as those in the suburbs and often children are unable to enroll in college because of the severe paucity of resources in urban public schools. By creating more equal channels of education, there is an increased chance of bridging the gap of the extreme income inequality that exists in this country.
In addition to reforming the access to the better parts of our public school system, another initiative to mitigate trauma among students is better training for teachers in this aspect of a classroom. If teachers were better equipped to pick up on these signs, they would be able to mitigate the adverse effects that the children are forced to cope with alone. Since the educational side of teaching is only one component, teachers should be able to aid students in the formative parts of school as well. This includes helping students deal with struggles outside of the classroom, which often include some difficult situations, especially for students in an urban environment. With more training in counseling, schools in difficult areas will become more of a safe haven for students where they can open up about their issues and overcome them through solidarity.
Life is tough. There is no doubt about that fact. However, discussing issues in an open forum can be a powerful solution to overcoming hardship. Solidarity is key. When I know that I am not alone with a problem it can be an incredibly refreshing experience to discuss these issues with others who are going through similar difficulties. Throughout my first semester of college, I was going through some difficulties adjusting to living away from home. After a retreat towards the beginning of the year, I felt instantly relieved to hear that I was not alone with these problems. Later on during a service trip, I opened up even more and discussed some of the hesitations I had about college life with some close acquaintances. These experiences cam full circle when I served as a mentor on the same retreat and lead small group discussions with freshman. While I was in the leadership position, I felt that I learned as much if not more from the freshman than the other way around. In conclusion, solidarity can serve as an effective tool when getting through difficult times regardless of the context.
“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
I am probably the complete opposite type of traveler when compared to most responsible adults. Instead of planning out an itinerary months in advance with detailed travel routes and destinations, I prefer to wing it and take each day at a time. While some may see my lack in planning as a flaw, I think that it makes any trip exponentially more enjoyable. One example of this includes when I visited Ireland this past summer. Other than our airline flights and car service arrangements with a family friend, my mother and I were going to completely wing it. This could not have been a better decision. Among the wonderful and scenic car rides, we visited some of the most breathtaking sights, such as the Cliffs of Moher, Galway Bay, and the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Additionally, I played a round of golf at a traditional Irish country club (with a birdie on a long par 5 I might add). However, one of the most spontaneous moments I remember was playing a par 3 course that was conveniently located on the side of a cliff in a small town on the coast. The winds were gusting upwards of 40 mph and the long cut Irish grass was nearly sideways. Additionally, we had a wonderful view of the ocean and some grazing cows on the side of the course. Thankfully, it was only a par 3 course because I think I might have shot a 200 on a traditional links style course given the conditions. After our shoes were soaked from the rain and our faces were beaten from the wind, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at the local pub accompanied with a few pints of Guinness. Much to our delight, some live music started playing with a traditional violinist, spoon percussionist, and Irish tenor singer. Halfway through their set, a small boy came up to sing one of the most beautiful renditions of the “Fields of Athenry” I have ever heard. A few days later we even saw the fields themselves. Long story short, this was my favorite trip I have ever been on because of the heightened element of spontaneity. Personally, I think the most memorable moments come from the experiences that are not planned out, but rather come with a sense of curiosity and a little stroke of the luck of the Irish.
“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” –Plato
It was a balmy August afternoon when I was born. I am sure that it wasn’t very eventful for anyone else who wasn’t in my family but to them it was a momentous occasion. It turns out my mother was golfing on the day of my birth in 85 degree weather, which surprisingly induces labor. So off to the hospital my parents went as they pondered what to name their child. My mother was in charge of figuring out my middle name and that was simple enough: her maiden name, Burton. However, my dad was more troubled with the task of the first name, since it is much more vital than the middle one. After going back and forth, he decided that he wanted it to be a saint’s name. After doing a little research, he decided on Michael, the chief adversary against the devil and fallen angels. Not a small task by any stretch of the imagination. I am not exactly sure why he chose this name and perhaps it will be a fruitful discussion later in life. Nevertheless, I am proud of the name I was given and I take this challenge with honor as I look to try to mitigate some of the inequality in our world through my academic studies and co-curricular activities.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”