All students want to learn.
Just observe any kindergarten student on their way to school. Backpack bouncing up and down, jostling the contents to and fro. Most kindergarteners dart to school, skipping and singing along the way.
Curiosity seeps from their pores.
They can’t wait to see their peers. They can’t wait to share their stories. They can’t wait to learn.
All students can learn.
Each student can rise to high expectations, where they are both challenged and supported. Every student can demonstrate critical thinking, demanded by common core standards. They can realize the benefits of hard work in the classroom. With brains more powerful than the sum total of all computers on earth, students are ‘wired up’ for learning .
Too many students aren’t reaching their potential.
Just observe a ninth grade English classroom at one of our nations urban public schools. Even in a classroom with an expert teacher, the optics of frustration will become conspicuously apparent. Too many students arrive to this classroom with below grade-level skills. Others come with strains of learned helplessness. A few of them are barely surviving outside the classroom, unable to ascend Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to make learning a priority.
The causes of under-performance and disinterest are numerous. Like a hot potato, the blame is routinely passed around. Each category of stakeholder takes the blame in turn. But the unacceptable reality remains: Too many students aren’t reaching their potential.
The achievement of every student should matter more to us.
In his I Have a Dream speech, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, “If our nation is to be great, we must work tirelessly for the freedom of all God’s children.” I believe Dr. King would holistically include educational opportunity, as means to experiencing freedom. When all God’s children are free, they skip to school, express curiosity, and experience consistent intellectual growth.
For the good of our nation, of our communities, and of our families, we must work tirelessly towards to the achievement of all students. Our well being is certainly bound up in the well being of the children we serve, teach and love.
What if we took personal stake in every child’s success?
Something profound might happen if we truly believed and behaved like this. Meaningful change might occur if we take a deeply personal stake in matters. Excuses might begin to dry up. Advocacy, for the ones who need it most, would be heard in the halls. If we truly begin to live into these convictions about student potential, lives would change. In the end, we would deliver on the promise of public education.
What if each of us made deeper, more personal investments in the learning of every student?
For the school administrator it might mean spending more time in classrooms to ensure the delivery of instruction is the best possible. We know that teacher quality is the greatest predictor of success for students in your school. So for you it might mean encouraging your most dedicated teachers and ‘shaking the bushes’ to find (and fund) more of them.
For the teacher, it might mean volunteering after-school tutoring in your classroom. It might also mean visiting the home of a disinterested or disconnected student to meet parents and get a deeper sense for that student’s challenges.
For the parent with children who already soar, it might mean opening up the family circle each afternoon to include another student from your child’s class or neighborhood. That student may benefit greatly from a ride home in the mini-van, a healthy snack, discourse about the day’s learning, and a quiet place to do some homework.
For a booked up businessman, it may mean scheduling time to mentor a middle or high school student. And with the knowledge that this relationship has potential to buoy a struggling student, it should remain a priority. Consistency and longevity will be key ingredients for student success.
And so this blog…
This blog chronicles the learning, the successes and failures, of one educational leader’s passionate longing to see all students achieve in urban public schools.
Before the strategies and pedagogy, there must be ownership. The only way that we are going to realize our dreams for students is if we truly believe, and truly behave, as if those kids are our kids.
Image by Brian Moore via Flickr.