I have the privilege of teaching students with a full range of talents, academic abilities, socio-economic levels, ethnicity, backgrounds, and life experiences, and I relish the challenge of meeting every kid where they are. Despite these differences, these kids show me every day an example of how the world could be.
They accept, love, tease, high-five, fist-bump, and encourage one another as though no differences existed.
We have the same issues at our school most underserved population have, but the one thing we do not have is self-segregation. Our kids see each other for who they are and are accepting of one another's differences.
But like many schools across the US, a startling disparity exists among my students' achievement levels, and too often this disparity lies along racial lines. It is frustrating to me beyond words. My passion has always been education, and I am determined to level the playing field for all of my students while encouraging higher achievement across the board.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education has accepted me into a week-long workshop aimed at narrowing the achievement gap while helping all students to achieve at higher levels. My goals for attending this workshop are many: I seek a more complete understanding of the gap I see among my diverse student bodies; I want the clearest possible picture of the complicated, chaotic web of causes; and I want to form and implement practical, long-term, viable solutions. Then, through school-wide PD, I intend to spread these discussions and ideas throughout my school community to influence our student body as a whole.
Something must be done.
It must. I have attended the funerals and visited the prisons of too many bright, energetic, emotionally intelligent young people who, because of the circumstances of their birth or their living situation or a multitude of other issues outside of their control, have ended up on a destructive path. It will take more than an expensive, half-hearted, gone-in-two-years school initiative to reverse this trend, more than protest marches and vigils. The potential positive contributions these students - these creative, intelligent, amazing kids - could be making to our world are staggering to imagine. So much of this prospective progress and achievement, though, ends up rotting behind steel bars or buried beneath the weight of poverty and violence. It does not have to. We can support and nurture these gifts - but an effective solution requires the support and commitment of more than just the teacher in the classroom, and I intend to see that all that can be done is done for the students - and the world - in our care.
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