The first thing that struck me when I walked into my
into my college prep high school was the
smell. It smelled of new paint, new carpet and
Books so new that they had never been used yet.
In fact, I stopped by there last August
and it still retained that new school smell. Creepy.
The public middle school that I came from?
There wasn't anything particularly NEW about it.
The biggest difference between the schools were the money
spent on each student and the students attitudes towards learning.
Regarding the cost difference, the public school was "free",
but we all know nothing is free. The prep school was $10K/year.
Regarding the students, there was a mixed bag.
Some dudes, came to play, get at girls, and the young ladies did the
same. Others guys came to both learn and socialize as well.
And then there were some known d-boys just passing the day
by until the could grind when the sun went down.
Now that I think about it, it was kind of bugged out to be in
middle school, with cats that were known to sell cracks,
but then again, thats Oakland/Chicago/Philly/Newark/DC....
I thought of this contrast in experience when I read the new
Will Okun post where he discusses being a teacher
and the frustrations that go with the territory.
Full disclosure. Will reached out this morning and requested
feedback on his post. I started writing an e-mail response
and before I knew it, I realized that it was way too long,
and that it would be a better blog post instead.
He used Dead Prez's song, "They Schools", to
illustrate his point.
Will goes on to quote a veteran teacher speaking
on what it feels like to teach middle schoolers.
“We are not teaching them about their lives or their communities because it is not in the curriculum. Instruction is driven by standardized testing. We are teaching testing, not knowledge. No one hears these kids, nor do we try. There is absolutely no respect for these students. These middle schools are like prisons where the spirits of our children are slowly crushed, and I have been an unwilling participant in the destruction of young lives. Simply being witness and not speaking out daily makes me feel the soulful guilt of a thief,”.Almost every school that I have been in since high
school has been small- 350 to 450 students.
(In fact, that probably underscores why law school, which
was approximately 1500 people, was so difficult for me).
My experience in small school settings has taught me that
only when the school is small, will the transformative, soul bending
learning that needs to take place, actually occur.
I don't cosign on the notion that children can't learn
in environments where there are 1499 other students.
I just know that it is a formidable and damn near impossible.
I also know that public-urban-education
isn't designed to create critical thinkers.
People say, kids need to learn, "In my day...I walked
ten miles...blar, blar blar." I always respond to those statements
with, "If it were YOUR daughter in that school, what would you do?"
In fact, I have often wondered what schools would
be like if state or federal charters required that teachers and
administrators to live in the cities that they taught? What if
they were required to enroll their children in public school system
in which they worked as well?
Can we say "skin in the game"?
Black teachers and administrators had skin in the game
prior to integration. (The other side of That coin is the seperate
but equal learning that was taking place, damned if you do...)
I always think of this when people talk about our fear of
being told that we are "acting white" if we are high
achieving. Prior to integration, there was no one saying that
"being smart was acting white". There were no (or few if
any at all) white students in our schools for us to be compared to.
Skin in the game and educational systems.
Acting white as a consequence of integration?
Nice combo, eh?
Oh, and I REALLY like the phrase "soul bending learning."