Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tell It On The Mountain, Mr. Welsh!

Patrick Welsh -- To Explain the Achievement Gap, Examine the Parenting Gap - washingtonpost.com: "A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: 'It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study.' "

Amen and amen. It breaks my heart, sitting here and mentally reviewing the faces of each and every one of my students, that out of over sixty this semester, I have three black males. And if I were to take them aside today and ask them, I guarantee I would hear that each them had a strong male in the house who made them study.

I had the privilege long ago of teaching a young man who went to Duke University on a basketball scholarship, and who could've gone pro his junior or even sophomore year. He did not, he waited until graduation, because I knew his father would kick his backside if he didn't finish college. And this young man made A's and B's throughout high school without special tutoring or extra credit --because his dad was on his case the whole time (as was his mom).

Mr. Welsh shows yet another reason I abandoned public education for academia:

Perhaps nothing shows how out of touch administrators are with the depth of poor students' problems more than the way they chose to start this school year. The Alexandria School Board had added two more paid work days to the calendar, a move that cost more than $1 million in teachers' salaries. So the administration decided to put on a three-day conference they dubbed "Equity and Excellence." We were promised "world-class speakers." If only that had been true. As part of the festivities, Sherman formed a choir of teachers and administrators that gave us renditions of "Imagine" and "This Land Is Your Land." Sherman closed the conference by telling us that if we didn't believe that "each and every" child in Alexandria could learn, he would give us a ticket to Fairfax County.

Now, six weeks into the academic year, some 30 fights -- two gang-related -- have taken place at T.C. Williams. I wish those three days had been spent bringing students to school to lay out clear rules and consequences, and for sessions on conflict resolution and anger management.

Administrators aren't paid to actually solve problems, only to address them. If schools didn't have problems, administrators and educational consultants would not have jobs. But some of the problems they face are beyond their immediate control, and they should start by facing up to that knowledge and tackling those aspects that they can control head-on.

So tell it on the mountain, Mr. Welsh! I'll be hollering back from the next ridge.

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