Category Archives: Teacher
For the past few weeks, I’ve taken a vacation from blogging.
It wasnt due to lack of ideas, but more of a censoring period in order to properly process what I was thinking. We’re nearing the end of the school year, and as a teacher and mother, I’ve been able to see two sides of an interesting coin. My children go to private and traditional public schools, while I teach at a public charter school. The results, accountability, and types of information provided are very different. Added to that equation are some of the students with whom I interact on a weekly basis, and you have a veritable cornucopia of what’s wrong with our education system. The thing is, it isn’t really easy to articulate the problem in a way to get people to understand the import. So, I am left with so many questions:
1. How does a teacher sleep at night knowing he or she hasn’t properly serviced a child with an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?
2. Why are so many teachers of color pushing for boys of color to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Why aren’t they differentiating their lessons and teaching styles to meet the needs of these boys, many of which do NOT have ADHD?
3. How does a parent, single or partnered, advocate for their child without seeming like she/he is ignoring the academic of behavioral challenges of their child?
4. Why are so many children of color not going to school with the basic academic reading and math skills?
5. Why are so many teachers fighting the idea of The Common Core, not from a curricular standpoint, but from a procedural standpoint. That is, though it is easier to teach students the whats and wheres, isn’t it BETTER to teach students the whys and hows?
6. When do children in certain neighborhoods get to be children? Why do they have to be drilled in school on how to fill in circles for a standardized test instead of learning how to think and solve problems?
I keep on meeting parents of students who should be able to read at a certain level, and they can’t. The parent must choose between allowing their child to have the extra-curricular opportunities that every kid should have, and doing extra tutoring. I look at my children who are doing well and I should be happy, but I am not. There are FAR too many children that look like mine that are not doing well. Who can’t read on grade level, or speak properly enough to communicate and articulate their points. Or those who have no idea of certain grade level math skills because some teachers have chosen to do other than teach (yes, it is a choice regardless of what your union may say). Maybe it’s just a New York City thing. I wish that were the case, but sadly, it isn’t.
The not-so-funny secret about all this, is that it begins with the push for educational justice. We continue to close schools because they are failing, but we ignore why they are failing. It isn’t simply that teachers are not teaching. When an educator chooses to stop teaching, there are several things that drove her/him to that decision. Lack of resources or support, seeing adminstrators focus on the fluff instead of the real foundational learning items, or seeing those who barely do their jobs get promoted. Also, though I teach in a charter school, I have seen cities and districts support the charter school movement in a way that they have not supported the traditional public school. Teachers pray for smaller classrooms in order to teach more effectively, and instead of creating more classrooms, more consultants are hired to practice their experiments on children- and ultimately fail them. If as a country, we push to be fair- I mean really fair to poor children, we will raise the achievement of all children. You cannot hold someone down without being in the pit with them.
The other not-so-funny secret is the complaints of those who are doing anything. I’ve heard many a parent say that the school isn’t doing its job. Mind you, their child (and I’m not talking about those who have educational and financial challenges) never does any homework, has no structure in the home, but has the newest sneakers when they come out. How do you form your mouth to complain about the educational system when you’ve abandoned your job at home? These are the same ones that wonder how their child got mixed up in the wrong crowd (again, not talking about those who are relegated to certain neighborhoods that have a different code of survival). I tire of those who expect that the world owes them something, and they will not be proactive until they get that “something” in hand. Makes me wonder if segregation was so awful……but that’s such a loaded question.
Anyway, I say all that to say, this education thing; this school thing- it’s so much more complicated than we may appreciate. Children are coming to school unprepared, and are going to schools that are under-serving them. Other children are going to school prepared, and are able to prosper in a way that every child should have the opportunity to prosper. Instead of seeing that we are all in a similar boat, we’re competing for space on a sinking ship. We’re focused on color and class, when it seems obvious that the rest of the world looks at us as America as a whole, and not with the differences on which we focus. One nation? When?
Today, my first-born came home and told me that people in his class, teacher included, didn’t think his work was his. In his words, “They said my writing doesn’t sound like a 4th grader, so someone else must have done it for me.” He stated that the teacher didn’t come out totally and say it wasn’t his, but intimated that she was unsure of how he was able to write in such a manner. Before I totally allowed the statements to process, I thought as a teacher, and not as a mother. I indicated that perhaps he should push to speak with his friends the way he wrote. That way, they wouldn’t see the disconnect between actions outside of schoolwork, and performance of schoolwork. I then recounted some of the statements his teacher recounted, indicating that he is bright and quick to complete his work, but talks a lot. I went on and on, for about a minute, about the things he could change to make things better. Suddenly, it hit me. I am not his teacher, per se. I’m his mom. I was telling my 9 year old that the statements about his work were somehow his fault, and that he had to change something about himself to make it better. I’m not sure if he saw it that way, but my realization crushed me. I knew I had to fix things.
What I said to him was basically what society seems to tell victims all the time. If you hadn’t walked down that road, this never would’ve happened. Had you not worn that dress, this never would’ve happened. Had you simply remained silent, you would never have been targeted. Is that how we want our children to grow up? Afraid of their own voices, or talents, or beliefs, or dreams? I certainly don’t. So, the first thing I did was use my social platform for good. I posted the situation on my Facebook status, and my 9 year old was sent so many messages of encouragement concerning his abilities. Many of them had the same advice I’d like to give to parents and teachers of children who may be ashamed to let their light shine:
1. Those who ridicule you today will request a job from you tomorrow.
2. Nerds rule, losers drool.
3. Never be ashamed of knowing more than you should.
4. You are special without even trying to be.
5. You’re forging a path for your future that you will not regret.
6. A good vocabulary can take you places.
7. Remain humble and offer to tutor those who tease (I have to say, this one made me giggle the most).
I’m asking each one of you to find a child, or even an adult, who seems afraid and ashamed to let the world know what’s in them. Help them know that they have a voice, and therefore, they have the choice to be more than the world expects. They are needed.