Thursday, December 11, 2008

Missed Bus -- Twice

Yep, Gary missed the bus twice this morning. This is possible since he rides the county public bus and not the city bus. Sadly, the bus that goes to his school comes by only once an hour. Since he might have caught the second one if he hadn't been deep in conversation with me, I gave him a ride. He got there before he would have had he caught the bus.

We were talking about getting into college, what grades he would need to have and such. It was a ways into the conversation before he realized that according to me at least it is more difficult to get into the private college where I teach rather than the big public university in The City.

He's still not sure I'm right about that -- what with them being a university and us just being a college.

I am always surprised by the things that kids in foster care miss. It is unpredictable, these holes in their knowledge about the world. What saddens me even more though is the embarrassment or even shame that comes with it. I have had foster care alumni tell me that they were so embarrassed to have to admit to someone that they didn't know what escrow was. I tried to assure her that really no one did, or at least no one learned until they needed to know.

There are lots of things I don't know, but I don't tend to be embarrassed about it. If I need to know I find out.

Gary is having a hard time in school right now. When he was in the first treatment center he had school on site. He is under the impression that he studied Algebra I, II and Geometry all in the same year. I am inclined to think that there were students studying at these various levels, but that he was only doing one of them. Probably. Anyway, he is taking Algebra I right now and having a very hard time with it because he shouldn't be having a hard time with it it and so doesn't want to ask for help. He shouldn't need help.

I gave him a little pep talk in the car, asked him what he would do if there was some MMA move that he used to be able to do and now couldn't remember. Would he fake it? Work around it? Or would he has someone at the dojo to re-teach it to him. He acknowledged that he would ask.

So last night he asked me to help him with some graphing problems. He had to graph equations like y = 3x. I showed him how to do it and of course he was hitting himself on the forehead because it was so easy and he should have been able to figure that out by himself. I hope I struck the right note with him, acknowledging that it was easy once you know how to do it, but understandably mysterious if you don't.

It also turns out that he doesn't have basic skills in word processing. I found that out when I was helping him with the paper. It caught me by surprise too. He has had keyboarding. He can touch-type. He can do all sorts of things with his MySpace page, but he doesn't know that when you are writing a bibliography you can tell the computer to do that "weird indent thing where the first line sticks out." When that the the first name of the author should come after the last name he started retyping it. Without thinking I asked him why he didn't just click and drag. He said he didn't know what that was. I felt instantly horrible because I asked it in a teasing tone of voice, like of course he knew and just wanted to do it the hard way.

It is a constant mine field. Now they are just little mines, but there are there. At any moment I may insult him by expecting him to know something that he doesn't know. At any moment he may be struggling and not asking for help because he doesn't want to admit he doesn't know something.

And of course the solution is not so easy as just teaching everything, because he will also be insulted if I try to explain something to him that he already knows.

I want to make this easy on him. I want him to feel safe asking me. I know I can't force that though. I think asking for help on his algebra was an important step, as was finally accepting help on his paper.

Trust comes slowly.

Even with the "easy" kids.


  1. I really wonder if this is a "foster kid" issue, or a "kid not raised by (the collective) you" issue. I admit, there are lots of places that my own education is sorely lacking and I have issues with making that known.

    I used algebra as recently as 3 years ago, and I would have to look up how to graph equations. Admitting that makes me want to put a bag over my head. Ugh. Okay wait, I remember how now, and I didn't have to look it up.

    I have also had some interesting conversations recently with supposedly well educated professionals who have said things such as, "They are living in another country" in reference to someone living in New Mexico and "they traveled overseas" in reference to a trip from the continental US to Canada.

    Education, even public education is far from universal. My guess is that a lot of information is taken in through family and not through school, which would explain why a kid you didn't raise would have holes that you notice.

    In fact, there is a great book about a similar thread called...the name escapes me. Darn it. I'll have to try and find it.

    Maybe I should start my very own blog so I don't have to hijack yours! haha :)

  2. The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier

    by Miriam Weinstein

  3. I can relate to all of this, DH was a foster child for 4 years before being booted out at 18 and I can relate to all of this...a lot of DH's problems fall to confidence...even if he knows it, he won't try in fear of failing!

  4. Anonymous11:18 AM

    There is a newish math program called integrated math, where the students do several subjects (algebra and geometry, for ex.) al in the same course. Maybe Gary did something like that, so he has a little bit of knowledge, but not the whole subject.


  5. The NY Times had a blog post not long ago about keyboard shortcuts that people found useful and that many people don't know about. Gary might appreciate knowing that people who use computers for a living don't always know these things. The link is here:


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.