Along with everyone in the new Love146 Texas office, I had been looking forward to the beginning of the school year since I arrived because it’s then that we would be able to facilitate our prevention curriculum in Houston classrooms. As of the end of October, we have already reached over 226 kids – thanks in large part to a group of schools that wanted to implement this material as quickly as possible.
I spent several consecutive weeks teaching early in October, working at a pace that was both dizzying and energizing! For the first two weeks, I was delighted by the receptive nature of the kids. Most students were progressive, justice-minded, and participated thoughtfully in class conversations.
However, on one particular day, when I began the first session in a new room, crossed arms and stony expressions greeted me. Each day, the kids rolled their eyes and wouldn’t look at me while I spoke. I was surprised and baffled by the difference between this and my other, highly participatory groups. Each day was very tiring. The workshops concluded without me perceiving a change in the kids.
At home, I followed the news of the FBI-led, Houston raids that took place a couple of miles from that very school. It’s sobering to remember that some of the girls who had been trafficked were only 14 – the same age as the children sitting in my classroom.
The next day, back at the same school, I sat by myself and ate lunch outside; I didn’t wave at any of the students for fear of embarrassing them. I was surprised to see a boy from my challenging class jogging towards me and calling out, “Miss!!” hands gripping his backpack strap. “Did you see the story on the news?” he didn’t wait for me to respond, but continued, “It’s true! Just like you said! It was trafficking – there was coercion! There was fraud! Just like you said!”
He was energized by his own mastery of terminology and concept. Though amazed, I quickly affirmed his understanding and applauded his memory. As he walked away, I sat smiling.
This young man got it; he even used the technical terms “coercion” and “fraud.” I was overjoyed to see such a deep and lasting impact from our time together. I was reminded that I cannot judge the success of a workshop by how interested the students appear. Who knows – the tension and resistance of that class might have been due to some very real inner turmoil.
Bolstering my new optimism, more students from that class found me as I was eating lunch outside that week, dropping by just to say hi. I have been encouraged to realize that we make a difference in the lives of every single child we reach… even in more challenging classrooms where prevention education may be needed most!