My time working at the school in East Dallas back in the early 1990s was an adventurous ride. Let me paint the picture to get started. For those of you that are not familiar with Dallas, the east side of town was a little rough back then. My center sat about a block away from a busy intersection. I had a liquor store on one side of me and another liquor store on the other. There was a strip club that sat across the street. Every morning when we opened the building, we had to walk the playground to pick up empty liquor bottles, needles, used condoms and pornographic magazines. Several times we had to wake people up and kick them off the playground. I had several parents that worked across the street at the strip club. I will say, they were good payers! They always paid their tuition in ones, but they paid. The moms would come to the front desk, say they needed to pay tuition, so I would pull out my disposal gloves, put them on, take the money and write them a receipt. They were never offended that I put gloves on either. In fact, it was one of the moms who suggested that I do it!
This center was full of kids from low income families. I had child protective services in my center on a weekly basis, either doing an investigation or a follow up visit. I had kids that would grab a hand full of food off their lunch plates and stuff it in their pockets. At first I did not know what was going on, then I figured it out. These three year old kids were smart enough to know that they were hungry at home, and that they would get plenty of lunch at school, so they would take food home so they could eat at night. I felt bad for one family after I commented on this. She told me that they did not have money for food. So I started packing up left over lunch and would send it home. A week later I saw that mom drove a brand new car and wore designer clothes. Her nails were always decked out. After I sent the left over food home a few times, mom started expecting it and ripped me a new one when I did not have anything to send home. She obviously had her priorities way out of line.
One year, we had a huge ice storm the day after Thanksgiving. This particular school opened during inclement weather. I left home at 5:00am in order to open the school at 6:30am. I only lived about 15 minutes away. Roads were horrible and I actually slid into a stop sign. I ended up not getting to the school until about 6:45am. By the time I arrived I was a nervous wreck. Much to my surprise, there was a line of parents and their kids waiting for me to open the school. (no staff) The parents were all wearing their pajamas and robes as they proceeded to rip into me for opening late. Then went on to tell me they did not have to work today and was going home to go back to bed. It took every ounce of professionalism I had not to go off on them. But I knew, the kids were better off with me then staying at home with some of these parents. For a moment that morning I strongly considered calling my district manager and telling her that I was done with this place. Then I looked at these kids, sitting in the classroom with the biggest smiles and laughter. They were so grateful for the care we gave them. Instead of quitting, I dedicated myself to these children and all the children that have come into my programs since then.