Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Kids and the School

The whole reason I'm going to Mali and Senegal is for field work and research towards a curriculum unit that I will eventually use in my classroom.

Let me give you some background on my classroom. I teach ninth grade in an "urban" high school. I've been at this school since I started teaching four years ago and I love it. My students are very diverse in terms of class, race, and skill level. They range from very affluent kids who have everything they could ever need to kids living in a homeless shelter. I've got kids reading at twelfth grade levels mixed with kids reading at the third grade level. My school doesn't "track," per say, but you can see just by peering into different classrooms that they students are segregated into the haves and the have nots. You can have two very different high school careers at my school. One involves a rigorous curriculum with very "serious" students while the other involves teachers just trying to get kids who have been pushed around by the education system for their whole lives to sit in a seat and listen. And yes, I do believe that many of these kids have been pushed around by our education system. All in all, what I'm saying is that, like all public schools, we have our share of problems.

Since I started teaching four years ago, I've tried to teach a curriculum where I open students eyes to the world around them (yes, I was called a crazy liberal hippie by one parent during my first year of teaching). Since then, I've learned how to present more sides of the story than just mine. My students usually have positive things to say about my class and the things they learned about the world. Since I teach mostly freshman it takes a very, very long time for them see the big picture. The good thing about that is that I have my freshman all year long.

Although I enjoy my job, the nature of this job can make a person feel down. It's hard to see my students say that they can't wait to be rap stars (when they cannot write), NBA or NFL players (when they are ineligible), doctors and lawyers (when they read at a fifth grade level). Am I saying that I am a dream crusher and I shoot down their lofty goals? Nope. I'm saying that it is difficult to watch these kids go through a system that is constantly failing them.

Question: What am I going to do with that one hour of time that I get every day?
Answer: Teach them the reality of our world and their lives and try to give them the motivation to empower themselves to challenge that reality.
Call me idealistic... I like it.Next up: The research

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