Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goal of the week: Survival.

Thought of the day: "Considering the culture where I work."

We say there is an achievement gap. The difference in standardized test scores between different racial and socio-economic demographics is pronounced. Students that are black, hispanic, or mixed don't do as well as their white counterparts. Students from low income backgrounds in urban settings don't do as well as their middle or upper class counterparts in the suburbs or rural settings. Why is this? There are many explanations and I won't go into them because that's enough for a Doctoral Thesis and not a blog entry.

However, from my time spent as an urban teacher I know one thing to be true. These kids are no different than those from the suburbs or out in the boonies. They are still kids. They love video games, they think they know it all, they get excited and jump around, they love candy, and they want to go on to do great things in this world. Also, just like their counterparts outside the city and from higher income familes, they *don't* want to go to school.

All I hear all day is "why do I need to know this," "does this really matter," "I don't want to," and "I don't care." These were the same things I heard growing up in the suburbs and in college with fairly affluent people. Kids don't want to do things that aren't fun. That's part of growing up is to realize that not everything in life is fun and if you want something that you have to work for it.

To quote the Stones: "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need." I need that written 4 feet tall somewhere in my classroom. My students don't seem to understand that you aren't always given what you want immediately. In that way, they are PERFECTLY NORMAL.

However, my students know that they can not take school seriously. Why? As a teacher, I'm not allowed to fail more than 10% of my class or my bosses downtown start to look really hard at me. Kids are smart creatures. What happens when every teacher in a district is told not to fail so many students? The kids see that they can do barely anything in class, not show up repeatedly, and still pass. That's what. This is the product of 10 years of students being *SHOWN* that they can get away with murder.

There are many other reasons for the difference in success, but that's one that surprised me. I believe in eduacation. I believe in it so much it hurts. It hurts me to see a school system effectively telling the students that they can slack off.

Frankly, it only hurts the students in the long run.

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