While reading “Tough Fronts” by L. Janelle Dance I was a bit upset and taken back by the terminology used to identify intercity students— “street-savvy youths” and “at-risk students”—not because it doesn’t provide the reader with an adequate understanding of these students but because it continues to classify—and in a way accept—this terminology as a label for intercity kids. The author also reiterates gang and drug activities as a street issue students need to avoid while teachers need to acknowledge and educate in a way that does not belittle or undermine the “students’ needs to survive the street” (83). This move and acceptance towards educating while understanding the adversities students face daily is a different perspective than what I am used to—as an intercity “at-risk student” perspective—moving the educational system towards a more accepting and understanding mentality.
While reading this paper I related towards the need to survive the streets. In middle school I was constantly faced with gang initiations and activity. Gangs were a predominant part of my upbringing. Students that chose this lifestyle were seeking a family away from their family—somewhere where they could relate to and feel welcome. I had family, neighbors, peers, and close friends in gangs. In middle school I was constantly evaluating myself—should I go with the socially accepted norm or the isolated world of diving into my education? I chose the later but wasn’t able to escape this life; I watched on as my house fell a victim to 3 drive-by shootings (my neighbors were in a gang and were in a battle with a rival gang for killing their son), one of which almost killed my brother—he was practically out the door when the bullets started, in broad daylight. I learned at a young age that home was not safe. In a way, I took to the streets (and most importantly, education, as a form of escape and a hope towards social mobility) as a safety precaution—I would constantly avoid going home which caused me to miss all three drive-bys but I still remember the tone my mother would speak in when I received early morning calls. I knew it so well she did not need to explain what occurred. I saved myself from the trauma of being on the ground surrounded by shattered glass waiting for the police, but I did take on the constant fear and anxiety that comes from this life.
While reading articles explaining the adversities faced by intercity students, I continually experience a disconnect between my raising and how the authors explain the situations. Being raised in these environments creates this strong but guarded personality that is seen through this article. Reading about these situations will never be the same as experiencing it daily—you can never forget the screams from a shooting victim. Being able to be taught by a teacher that is caring and understanding about these issues has a HUGE impact in the intercity school system. They provide an environment in which these students can sympathize and relate to—because in a way, we are a large family that have gone through similar adversities and trauma. I do not think this article explained how important it is to have a teacher like this because they serve as an example and role model showing us that we can be good despite all the bad around us.