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Don’t give up on ‘problem child’

Writing about education is wonderful job, because I get to interview students who are ambitious academically. I have been inspired many times by the determination of middle-schoolers.

I sit in front of my laptop and ask myself, “What’s the best way to write this?”

I want to make sure students enjoy reading about their classmates — even if they’re still learning to read.

After it’s published, I imagine a proud parent cutting it out of the paper and putting it on the refrigerator, a symbol of their child’s achievement. It’s more than a small story to them; it’s an incentive to keep doing well in school.

But the world isn’t sunshine and rainbows like I imagine. I know every time I write about a student who is doing well in school, there are many who fail.

Those are the “problem kids” you hear about. In addition to terrible grades, they have bad attitudes, they never have any form signed, they never do their homework, they’re always sticky or dirty, they fight with other students; I could go on for days describing these “troublemakers.”

But what if instead of writing children off as failures because of the lack of achievement, we tried harder to understand why they failed?

If you looked at a report card without A’s or a refrigerator door without an award magnetized to it, you might give up on that student.

If you opened that same achievement-less door and noticed there was no food to eat, would you still give up so quickly?

If you wiped the dirt off that little face only to find bruises, would you still wonder why he fights with other children?

Those are extreme examples, but they are possibilities.

As recently as December, the Mississippi Department of Human Services tallied more than 2,000 child abuse and neglect reports statewide.

We know it happens, but do we take it into consideration very often?

Try as we might, we will never live in a perfect world, but that’s not an excuse not to care.

Even if poverty, neglect or abuse does not cause the majority of trouble-making tendencies, they’re still children. They still need someone who spends time with them and encourages them — someone they can look up to.

We need to embrace the idea that a problem child could be one caring adult away from becoming a better student.

You might not be the only person who sees it, but you could be one person brave enough to do something about it.

Lyndy Berryhill is a staff writer for The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at lyndy.berryhill@oxfordeagle.com.