This article teaches us that there isno magic formula to successfully serving our Black and Latino male students. Insome cases, separating by ethnicity and gender worked. In some cases, it didnot. There are arguments for and against any type of school.
The difficulty arises whenconsidering all the elements that need to exist in a school that is effectivewith these populations, as well as all other populations. These schools focuson community, culture, individual learning networks, mentoring, relevantcurriculum, rigor, character, ethics, and a respect for learning. That’s a tallorder.
The situation becomes even morecomplicated when attempting to transform a campus. My campus received a $6million TTIPS grant to transform our campus. We are focusing on creatingacademies to make education more relevant and responsive to student interests.Along with that since we are an urban campus with many who are considered”at-risk” students, there comes the charge of keeping studentsengaged—many of our students aren’t aware of their interests in aneducational setting. And if they are aware, they have had little to no occasionto speak or act on these interests. We are needing to create contexts thatinvite discussion, ignite curiosity, boost inquiry into possibilities. We arealso dealing with shrinking enrollment due to feeder pattern changes andchanges in demographics. We need not only to recruit new students to ouracademies but also having to re-recruit, in a sense, our current students forthem to realize that education can be different and more meaningful to them.
This change isn’t limited to ourstudents. There is a need for a philosophical shift for the teachers. Clearly,it’s not a completely new mindset, but rather, a return to the originaleducational values that drove teachers to education in the first place. Many ofus have become so accustomed to the climate of high-stakes testing, thepressures from the powers that be to deliver test results, that we have feltforced to sacrifice or hide our meaningful literacy instruction because it wasso at odds with the assessment world. In response to this, we began thetransformation process by attempting to empower our educators to believe thatit’s time to return to what we know works. It’s time to return to puttingstudents first by having high expectations, rigorous and relevant lessons, andfocusing on what works. It takes courage to confront those above us stillsaying that the test results are our top priority.
Because no matter what we do, thetesting climate continues to exist. We are deemed worthy or unworthy of futuregrant funding based on data that in part is assessment-based. So will thetransformation be successful? Will we be able to strike the fine balancebetween what we know is right and effective for all of our learners with theincreasing demands of high-stakes testing?
Only time will tell. I remainoptimistic not because I am naive or idealistic but because I know it has tohappen. We have to provide a quality education for all of our students. Onething for sure, I am more motivated than ever to find ways to reach not onlyour Black and Latino males but all of our students. Reading this article bolsters the notion thatthe entire school community contributes to the success of these criticalgroups.
I am a teacher. I am passionate about what I do. I want to be able to empower my students to believe in themselves, believe in their education, believe they can achieve their goals.
I try my best to do the right thing. I seek out professional development to better serve my urban students. I read articles and follow discussions to continue to learn how my English language learners learn best. I focus on technology as a means of providing a more equitable education for my 80% low SES kids. I advocate for reform to encourage rigor not just relationships with my students. I search for additional resources to provide for them. I am dedicated to the transformation of my campus.
Still, I wonder, “When will it be enough? Will it ever be?” Will it be okay to admit my shortcomings? Maybe, I am not the most effective educator with all student groups. Maybe, as suggested in research, certain students perform better for certain types of teachers. How, then, can I transform education for these groups I may not be able to reach? If I cannot, is that okay? Should I continue to strive for what I cannot achieve? Or, maybe, there’s another way around it?
I do believe that students and teachers have affinity groups. Especially at a young age, people self-organize into groups where there are others who are similar to them. It just seems to be human nature. Later in life, people who do embrace diversity find themselves in groups with various cultures, but, in a high school setting, what can I do to support my students in feeling more comfortable with diverse learners and teachers? Yes, read multicultural texts. Yes, model the behavior. Yes, openly discuss the importance of a global society. I just wonder how to speed this along; is it possible? If not, will my students ever be able to learn at maximum capacity?
The notion of voice to empower students is critical. One thing I can do is provide a learning context where students and teachers feel safe and encouraged to speak about what they need. I can not only invite suggestions but also respond to these recommendations in a quick and effective manner. And still, I wonder if this is enough?
There’s no magic pill. There’s no program to be purchased. There’s no assessment to measure it, but the idea of having teachers who certain students do not respond to is at odds with effective learning. I offer my experiences as counter examples for I know I could have done many things better, but I would like to hear more on what people are doing that works.
What can educators do? What can policy makers do? What can parents do? What can students do? What can we all do to transform the educational system to one where all learners have access to a rigorous and meaningful education?
Big questions. Answers will begin to form with dicussions like these. Honest reflection will help tease out the issues and hopefully, get us closer to possible solutions.
For many students, school is the only place where they can be on even ground with the rest of their peers. When implementing digital tools to learn, it becomes more than just a question of engagement and participation. How is digital learning an equity issue?
As violence and murder escalates in neighborhoods such as Watts, “Literacy is a matter of life and death. Giving students access to literacy is giving them access to many more years to their lives.”
It all begins with an IDEA.
Yes, please. Urban youth telling it like it is…and you think they are waiting for Superman? No chance.
Quest to Learn or Q2L is a New York City school centered on learning how we create, innovate, renovate, appreciate, and collaborate in the systems of today’s world. Using digital media and gaming, students at Q2L explore how to problem-solve in highly engaging contexts that require creativity, risk-taking, critical thinking, and teamwork.
Who says play and work don’t mix? Certainly not the folks at Q2L. What joy and enthusiasm their students must have to be able to attend a school that understands them, accepts & respects them for who they are, and prepares them for future success. We could all be so lucky!
Because one of the reasons I continue to teach at an urban comprehensive high school is there is never a dull moment and because some of my previous posts have been just too serious, I have some fun anecdotes to share with you from my first week of teaching freshman and sophmore English.
Me: How was your summer?
Student: Great, Miss. I went to New York.
Me: Wow! That is exciting. What did you do? (At this point, I am thnking about what a culturally rich city it is. How I love Manhatten, its diversity, its amazing museums and food. I am eager to hear his adventures.)
Student: It was so great all I did was watch white girls. (Enter laughter here)
At North Dallas HIgh School, we have gendered classes for freshmen. This was a sad, sad revelation for my young men. Of course, they asked why, and I responded with the usual, “We want you to have as few distractions as possible so you can succeed.” One of them was particularly concerned.
Male Student: So all the boys are in all-boys classes?
Me: Yes. That’s right.
Male Student: But what about the girls?
(Pregnant Pause. Really? Really? Logic, please. At this point, I am laughing hysterically on the inside, but I proceed with dignity and respect for him.)
Me: Yes, the girls, too.
Male: Good. I guess I don’t have to worry about my girl, then.
Yup, deep belly laughs. It keeps me young. It keeps me loving my kids. It keeps me going.