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We Provided Alternative Schooling

What More Could We Have Done?

By Mary Alsop, alternative high school teacher, Salt Lake City, Utah

If you had asked Pedro what his future would be, he would have said jail. But his photo essay said something different. It showed a picture of two beautiful, brown-eyed children. And the caption he wrote said he wanted a family someday.

Pedro was my student during my first year working at an alternative high school.  I worked with him on his writing, discussed his idolization of Al Capone (which he inherited from his grandfather in Mexico), defended him in the faculty room, bent the rules for him, and became his advocate when we met with the administrators. Even his gang, advocates of "Brown Pride," supported his graduating. But Pedro didn't graduate. He dropped out just 2.5 credits short of a high school diploma.

Will Pedro ever recover his credits and graduate? He might. He might not.

As a teacher in alternative education, I see the faces that fill the spaces of the "achievement gap." I work with them daily, struggle with them, fight with them, and cajole them into learning. I like to think that I succeeded in letting them know that there is someone who cares whether or not they receive a diploma.

What more could we have done?

About the Author
Mary Alsop teaches English at Granite High Alternative in Salt Lake City, Utah. Over the past ten years, she also has taught at Albion Middle School, Eisenhower Junior High, and Central High School. Alsop earned an advanced teaching credential, National Board Certification, in the specialty area of Early Adolescence/English Language Arts.


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