Bill Ferriter of The Tempered Radical has a great post up about how the public thinks they know just what to do to fix this giant sloppy mess that is education....but how they really have no idea. Bill focuses on specifically the idea that a level playing field at the school level (funding, supplies, teachers) is all that any kid needs to learn.
Boy, wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be freakin' AWESOME?
Because that would mean that home environments and external concerns don't affect student learning, and it would be so nice to believe that. I'd love to think that these kinds of stories don't impact what happens inside the school.
I could stop worrying so much then, stop feeling so much responsibility, just teach 'em about reading'n'writing and not have conversations about how crappy it is that their favorite cousin just got shot in the face, or that their brother got arrested last night, or that their sister is pregnant and has run away from home (all of these have happened in the last month. Not exaggerating even slightly).
Because those things wouldn't affect their learning - they could just ignore them and focus on how sometimes off is an adverb and sometimes it's a preposition and it just depends on how it's being used. And then we could all laugh about how wacky the English language is and skip lightly off to lunch, chatting and singing songs about how wonderful life is. Tra la! Tra lay!
As is. Not so much.
I left a comment on Bill's site about how it's not just the general public who judges kids in poverty and doesn't want them around their precious little darlings - teachers do it too. Sometimes it's teachers from other schools, sometimes from my own. I know a teacher who is very vocal about how she wouldn't send her son to our school because of the bad influences and how academically low our kids are. I think if she wouldn't send her son, she shouldn't come herself.
A student asked me a few days ago why the kids from other schools don't like us. This big tough eighth grade boy, someone who looks a little scary, who might make people cross the street if he was walking toward them late at night, genuinely wondered and was genuinely hurt by it. His voice cracked as he asked me.
Whenever you hear someone speaking disparagingly of students like mine, or questioning why the teachers in high-poverty schools struggle to raise scores as high as those in middle- and upper-middle class schools, please remind them a lot of factors influence education, and that we do the best we can to make things better for our kids. It's not about making excuses for them - God knows I don't want to do that. Education is their only way out, their only chance to escape the generational poverty that so many of them are born into. And so I'm hard on them, I push them, I love them. But I need a little understanding from the public that what I'm doing is worth it, that these kids are worth it, and that they can do everything that anyone else can do but it might take them a little longer and a little extra support to get there.
(Image credit to Travelin' John)