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Diandrea's Destiny Nike Blazer ejjl
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Diandrea's Destiny
Diandrea Wilson's life can go either way right now. Everyone who knows her can see that. When you're 14 and an eighth-grader in the city's public schools and the good-looking guys in your class won't stop hitting on you - in very specific terms - what do you do? When one of the qualities you're known for in your brief life is being a player in the teenage-girl fighting culture, and you feel that anger building inside you, do you give in? "When somebody says something about me, I just automatically go off," says Diandrea, a student at Harvey Austin School at 1405 Sycamore St. "My attitude makes me look ugly, and people not like me." Or do you try to reach the good side you know is there and turn your life around? How can you put more energy and attention into your classes when you know your schoolwork has been poor so far? Do you reach out to your mother, teachers and school principal, and accept their help in what you all realize is the first real crossroads of your young life? The suspensions, the calls home, the screaming and swearing scenes in the hallway; all of these have dropped significantly this year. But how do you react when one of your girlfriends tells you someone else is talking about you behind your back,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], which really gets on your nerves? "I'm thinking in my mind what I should do," Diandrea says. "Should I do the wrong thing or should I do the right thing when I know the wrong thing is going to get me in trouble? If I do the right thing, then I won't have any trouble to worry about. But most of the time I do the bad thing." The decisions she faces don't stop there. What's the best way to dress and wear your hair - the sneakers-and-jeans look that sends out the "I'm tough" message? Or another way that maybe lets others see the fear and uncertainty of being at the most crucial part of your life and not knowing if you can stop the mistakes that have everyone so upset in the first place? "Before, her school work was very poor," says Diandrea's mother, Barbara Wilson. "This year she's starting to focus, but her attitude is her biggest problem." "No teachers are calling this year. She's doing her work. But it's still the beginning of the school year. And she's very, very much into boys. I still worry about her. I don't want her to get distracted again the way she used to." Here's something about Diandrea's life that is very clear: She is exactly the kind of student the Buffalo Public School system needs to reach to turn around its tarnished reputation. Test scores among eighth-graders are among the worst in the district, and these are the students who early next year will be competing for a limited number of spots in the city's desirable high schools. For better or worse, these eighth graders - both in their academic achievement and the social tone they set - will determine the future of the city school district, at least for the next four years. And for the uninitiated, here's Lesson No. 1: Countless students in the city's public schools bring personal baggage that interferes with their studies. Single parents who work too much or not enough. Younger siblings - often stepbrothers or stepsisters - who need to be looked after. Neighborhoods filled with crime or drugs. Feeling the sudden emotions of being a teenager without the experience or guidance to temper them. Success in the classroom means dealing with all these issues. There's no escaping the basic mission of the city's public school teachers. Keeping order is the first challenge. After that, the good teachers somehow find a way to keep the chaos and dysfunction of real life outside the classroom long enough for their students to learn. For a city and region staring at its own crossroads, a crossroads now charged with crises, the success or failure of Buffalo schools has wider implications. A healthy school district would provide the city with a fundamental tool for civic revival. "A good school district is the magnet to improve the quality of life," says Buffalo Schools Superintendent James A. Williams. "A good school district is going to increase property values and get people to move back into the city." Donald Van Every, chairman of the School Board's Finance and Operations committee,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], remembers the glory days when Buffalo's public schools were a national model of innovation and achievement. Good public schools, he says, are a bigger linchpin to a revival than jobs because city residents can work in the suburbs. Getting people to live in the city is what's most important. There's a flip side to this. There's a "cancer" of student failure throughout the district, says Williams. Parents still question whether some city schools can provide an orderly environment conducive to learning, says Van Every. If things don't change, both Williams and Van Every say, the dwindling tax base, loss of jobs, flight from the city, and the unmistakable civic decline will accelerate. "We're in a downward spiral of enrollment now," says Van Every. "If we don't stop this spiral, Buffalo will continue to shrink. There's no question." That's why what eventually happens to Diandrea and thousands like her matters far beyond the classroom. She could continue to struggle. She could give in to all the distractions, all the chaos and nonsense competing for her attention. Forty percent of students who were freshmen four years ago did not graduate on time. Failure in eighth grade obviously increases the risk of dropping out, which remains the quickest route to misfortune. But in a region looking for hope, the fate of the city's school system is a problem that really can get better. A districtwide renovation of schools has given many Buffalo students - including Diandrea - state-of-the-art facilities. In his first year as superintendent, Williams brings an urgency for measurable improvement and is not hesitant to express it. Many students in city schools are high achievers. The best schools in the system remain success stories. And a visit to any Buffalo school turns up scores of qualified, committed teachers and administrators, trying their best to turn around the lives of their students despite all the obstacles. The resources are there for significant improvement. Imagine the triumph if Diandrea becomes a testament to the power of quality public schools. Public education has been the road to a better life for generations of Americans,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], particularly for cities like Buffalo with large disadvantaged populations. All she has to do is follow the example of her older sister, Bryonna,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], and their mother. A senior at East High School, Bryonna so far plans to attend Clarkson University next fall; she wants to be a pediatric heart surgeon, and has the grades and study habits to back up her ambition. Barbara Wilson is exhausted by the demands of raising two daughters and a 19-year-old son still living at home. But she's taking advantage of overtime opportunities at her job at HSBC Bank to stockpile money for her family. Barbara Wilson's children complain about her spending so much time at work. They would never dream of doubting her commitment to them. Diandrea's teachers say her problems are discipline and focus, not ability. Kathy Vitagliano, principal at Harvey Austin School, says she sees undeniable progress in Diandrea. "She really is trying," says Vitagliano, one of the staff who has taken a special interest in Diandrea. "She is more self-aware of her feelings and her responses. She cares about improving herself. She sees another way of handling life, other than with her fists." Diandrea's teachers say her "combatant" nature indicates a spirit that could be an awesome motivator if it were redirected. Her winning smile and genuine warmth are undeniable assets in a world that now recognizes and rewards accomplished women. And she truly admires and adores her mother. Diandrea could be a success story, too. That's the drama in Diandrea's life, and as anyone who has been around a teenage girl knows, there's seldom any shortage of that. Which way is she going to go? Will she rise up and turn her life around? Or will she continue down that road where fights break out over who's talking to whom, where,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], according to Diandrea's classmates, half the eighth-grade girls have had sex (Diandrea says she has not) and where not wearing expensive name-brand sneakers gets you ridiculed. "A lot of girls here are just trying to be better than everyone else," Diandrea says. "I don't care. I'm not here on this earth for nobody to like me. There is only one purpose on this earth,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], and that is get an education and be the best you can be." "What Number You On?' Take a seat in one of Diandrea Wilson's classes. Watch what goes on around her every day. on a weekday in October. Math class in Room 209 at Harvey Austin. Seventeen students - all wearing jeans and sneakers - are scattered in groups around the classroom. Diandrea sits in the back surrounded by several boys. One minute, she is looking and listening to the boys, who are constantly chattering while the teacher conducts class in the front of the room. The next minute, she looks toward the teacher writing on an overhead projector, but Diandrea's view is partially blocked by chairs stacked on the row of desks in the next row. One of the boys in the back of the room spots a visitor with a tape recorder. "Is that on?" he asks loudly. "All right,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], guys. It's off." "What do we know about reflection?" asks math teacher Annette Doherty. "I'm way ahead of you," answers another boy sitting near Diandrea. Doherty asks the students to take out a review sheet, but the first boy stands up and says he never got one. "I gave it to you last night," says Doherty. "Last night? I weren't here last night." Doherty's review of transformations on the coordinate grid continues amid more chatter and laughter in the back. "Shut up," one boy says to the other. "I won't shut up." The first boy drapes his long legs over his desk. "Please put your feet down," Doherty tells the boy. "What number you on?" he asks, keeping his feet where they are. "Put your feet down," Doherty answers. "I'm on No. 4." "What number you on?" asks the other boy. The first boy gets up, walks to the teacher's desk near the projector and sits in her chair. "How about sitting where you can see?" Doherty says. The boy stays at the teacher's desk for awhile,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], then slowly walks back to his desk at the back of the room. "If I'm going to reflect it over here," continues Doherty,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], "what do I know about that?" "Turn around," she tells the same boy. But within a minute, he's talking to two other boys again, and the conversation continues loudly enough for those around to easily hear. "We played against them last year." "What week was that?" "I was on the right side." "You didn't play for no team last year." "He's lying, he's ----- lying." The boy then rips up a newspaper on the desk, drops some on the floor,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], then picks pieces up and walks to the recycling box. "I'm not littering, dude," he says. Diandrea finished the class the way she started, switching her attention between the teacher, and looking back and smiling at the boys. After class, Doherty admits she's being tested because she is new. "I think Diandrea is pretty good at math," Doherty says. "But you don't want to seem too much smarter than the guys you're hoping to go out with. I think a lot of the girls are jealous of her. She's very interested in her looks and how she is perceived by her peers," Doherty says. "Would you ever want to be in eighth-grade again?" Signs of Progress The Math 8 class that starts Diandrea's school day is one class on one day. Since then, the students have a new teacher. Most of Diandrea's classes are more orderly. Most have some sense of discipline and structure. Her social studies and English classes that day followed a strict lesson plan and format. Diandrea showed more interest in each of the classes. But wherever she went - Spanish, lunch, back in homeroom, walking through the halls, taking the bus home - she was flanked by boys, often one of those acting out in the morning math class. And there's no doubt,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], the typical classroom scene is frequently noisy, with frequent interruptions from teachers telling students to sit down or stop talking. There's yelling and sometimes swearing in the halls. The mood is sometimes raw, particularly to outsiders. Nevertheless, it's still a great improvement over last year. Formerly Emerson Vocational High School, Harvey Austin was renovated as part of the district's ambitious Joint Schools Construction project. The new school merged students from School 171 on East Delavan and Buffalo Traditional School No. 192 on Masten Avenue. Combining the two populations created fierce rivalries between the students, and Harvey Austin made headlines because of "interpersonal conflicts." From the time it opened in February until late May, seven staff members were punched, pushed or had chairs thrown at them, according to administrators. "The students are in charge of the school," one administrator said. "It's chaos." No staff member has been injured so far this year, according to school principal Vitagliano. The district's security staff from last year has since left. There are now just over 500 students at the school, grades five to eight. Vitagliano encourages a strategy of nurturing and understanding toward many troubled students, including Diandrea, a somewhat surprising tactic considering the building's history of discipline problems. Vitagliano or a teacher will check in with Diandrea most mornings, trying to get a read on whether her anger is putting her at risk. The message to Diandrea and others: If you feel yourself getting tense, come to the main office to calm down. If someone is trying to provoke you into a fight, tell one of the staff members. "Once I can get them to relate to me or someone else in the building, the battle is half-won," Vitagliano says. "As long as it's not anonymous - or an us-versus-them situation - then we can talk it out because it's usually a lot of minor stuff. They're trying to save face in front on their friends. They don't want to look soft." Rebecca Lane is another teacher who feels responsible for Diandrea. Lane, who teaches enrichment math at Harvey Austin, agrees the situation is much better than last year. "Discipline is wonderful," says Lane. "Behavior on the part of the kids is much better. I'm finally getting students I can teach, as opposed to the mania." "The kids are learning. Suspensions are down. Homework is being turned in. We have counselors positioned to help kids. It really is a different environment than last year." Lane says eighth-grade girls can be as wonderful as they are tough. For the typical eighth-grade girl, "men and sex are ways to get attention,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]," she says. "Negative attention is better than no attention at all. They're crying out, they're saying, "I'm here.'" Many students' lives revolve around survival and family,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], according to Lane. "They have to walk out this door every night and go home," she says. "Would you walk out the door and walk 10 blocks from here?" Then there's the family issue. Ask most people how many brothers and sisters they have, Lane says, and they answer easily. For many of these students,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], that means counting their father's kids and mother's kids, and "Dad's previous relationships and Mom's previous relationships," says Lane. "They're multiples. That whole situation is what I mean when I say "family.'" Even in this new environment, stories of fights - usually involving girls - are never far away. Earlier in the day - fourth period, to be exact - a girl in Lane's remedial math class was paying attention and doing what she was supposed to. "She was doing a great job," Lane says. "She was collecting papers. A boy said something to her and she turned right around and clocked him. They were rolling around on the floor. "I'd rather break up a boy fight before I'd break up a girl fight, and a lot of teachers would tell you the same thing." Despite the bright spots (Vitagliano quotes Teddy Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."), test scores for Harvey Austin are poor. More than 90 percent of the school's eighth-graders scored below grade level in the state's most recent math tests. Vitagliano says about 85 percent of all her students are achieving below grade level in math and English. Harvey Austin now has the SUR label, a school under review, which designates failing academics that must be improved. "There's a lot of catching up to do," says Vitagliano. "Everyone is getting additional English and math help, as much as we can schedule it. We have tutoring in our after-school program." Diandrea is typical of these students who need help. Despite her history ("Diandrea used to duke it out," Lane says. "No doubt about it.") and against the overwhelming odds, Lane remains optimistic. "She is a sweet,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], very nice girl," Lane says. "And she's smart. She needs a new car. Although Bryonna will probably get a college scholarship, Barbara wants to send her there with some money to live on. And she admits when she sees something for Diandrea, she buys it. She can't help it: she wants Diandrea to know she's proud of her for her better grades and attitude, especially since Diandrea sometimes thinks her mother favors her older sister. So the 12-hour days working in HSBC's branch department where she opens accounts online will continue. "As long as they let me," Barbara says. "As long as they have the hours." By the time she comes home, her children will have fixed themselves dinner. And somehow, despite all the absences and tension over Diandrea's behavior (two rules: no more fighting, and no boyfriends until she's 16, which is two years away), they're close. "Mom, we need to talk," Diandrea will say when she comes into her mother's bedroom at night. Sometimes Diandrea will leave a hand-written note on her mother's bed. About someone at school blaming her for something she did not do. About her older brother picking on her. About how she's feeling. "She's always hugging me," says Barbara. "I do the same to her. I'm her mother, and she loves me." "She's like a father figure to me and a mother," says Diandrea, who has not seen her father for three years. "That's why I love her so much." Both were looking forward to the school year with optimism and hope. "I've got a 100 in math," Diandrea says. "I got 92 in Spanish. I don't know what I got in social studies, but I know I get my work done so I don't have anything to worry about." The five-week progress reports came out the middle of October. Diandrea had done excellent work in English. But in math, science, social studies and Spanish, she was on the brink between passing and failing. "Needs to stay focused," read one comment. "Socializing and drama keeping her from doing better." "Needs to learn proper classroom behavior." "She's going to struggle up until the very end," Vitagliano says after reviewing the teacher reports. "She has the ability to do it, but it depends on how much effort and consistency she puts into it." "Her attitude still seems much better," says Barbara Wilson. "She doesn't react to things with a negative response. But she's not studying the way she's supposed to. If she doesn't know how to do something, she's not asking for help." As always, Diandrea could go either way. "I am going to try to get some 80s and 90s," she says. "I'm going to stop talking so much in class and pay attention, and do all my homework. Because I know I am capable of doing the work. I just don't do it." Charles Anzalone is editor of First Sunday.相关的主题文章:

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