In this Washington Post open letter to President Obama, the wife of a Georgia public schoolteacher describes the state of emergency students and teachers are currently facing. It is beautifully composed and deserves a read.
Faced with mounting evidence that get-tough policies in schools are leading to arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates that especially affect minority students, cities and school districts around the country are rethinking their approach to minor offenses.
After reading the above quote in Lizette Alvarez’s New York Times article, Seeing the Toll, Schools Revise Zero Tolerance, something awakened inside me: I am not alone. With educational reform dedicated to its strict aims, it seems like everyone is on the zero tolerance train. Alas, right on the front webpage of The New York Times, I see that others, too, are baffled by this idea.
I have often wondered: if we want students to change their “bad habits,” why kick them out, possibly even for their first (and only — after all this is zero tolerance we’re talking about) offense? How can someone change if they are merely kicked to the curb without any support? Instead, I like the ideas expressed in Alvarez’s article: “Rather than push children out of school, districts like Broward are now doing the opposite: choosing to keep lawbreaking students in school, away from trouble on the streets, and offering them counseling and other assistance aimed at changing behavior.” There’s an idea: let’s help these kids, instead of throw them back on the very streets that enabled the behavior that got them in trouble in the first place.
The more we do for these kids — and these, especially — the better our educational system will be. Who knows — maybe we can start closing some prisons in order to open more schools, instead of the other way around.
One of my high school students has made national news.
If I had to describe T. J. in one word, it would be “cool.” He has faced so many obstacles in his life, but he always keeps his cool. If he hits one road block, he turns around and keeps driving until he finds his way. I have complete faith in him that he will succeed in whatever endeavor he encounters because his heart is strong and his drive unending.
T. J. inspires me because he never stops. So many times, I — like many others — feel like the world is against me in my fight for social justice. Then I encounter people whose stories are so inspirational, that I am called back into action. T. J.’s story does just that. If he can overcome countless obstacles, so can I — and so can you.
Here are other stories on T. J.:
One of my professors, Stephanie Jones, showed this video to our Powerful Readers course this summer. In my opinion, it speaks to the heart of education. Students, I hear things like “I hate school,” “I’m sooooo bored,” or “UGGGHHHHH” come out of your mouths on a daily basis — and I believe the video explains why. We have lost sight of education and its purpose.
It is my hope that, by sharing this video, more people can respond to it. It is NOT my hope to encourage more students to hate school. In fact, I have the opposite goal in mind. Individualized education can inspire. So, tell me: how do you hate school, but love education, and what can we (teachers) do about it?