Friday, February 22, 2013

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” ~Aristotle
Education should level the playing field. It should give students who grow up with uneducated parents, barely scraping out an existence, a chance to have more, to be more, and to give more. Education should break the generational struggles of dead-end jobs, bleak futures, and hopeless poverty.

Does it?

Teaching in a high poverty area, I see a wide spectrum of students, in demographics, abilities, and attitudes. Some of my students live in homes with no running water or indoor plumbing. Others live in beautiful new homes situated on lakefront properties. In my classes, I work with students with IQ’s as low as 60, to those in the above average range. Some come to school each day with a positive attitude, a can-do, will-do work ethic. Others, regardless of the task, put forth as little effort as humanly possible.
Our goal in education is to smooth out the hills and valleys of what was handed these children, and send them out into the world with the same skill sets, the same intrinsic drive, creating the same opportunities for adult success. Is that truly possible?

The defining difference in student success ultimately is their attitude, not their ability, and not their demographic background.  This attitude is built with a variety of tools, at home and at school. Students must see the purpose in education and seek their own path for learning and success. As educators, we can try to instill this need, this craving, this want for knowledge by providing a caring, engaging school environment, where all students feel success is possible. We can build upon the individual strengths of our students, scaffold their successes to create independent learners. We can develop programs which service the whole child, not just academically, but emotionally as well. We can be their role models and their confidants, their coaches and their guides.

Will that be enough to overcome generational school avoidance? Will it convince students that education is a priority?

For some students, yes, a caring adult can make all the difference and change the course of their personal journey.

For others, it seems the path is already set in stone, unable to be changed. 

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