Thursday, April 06, 2006

Trip 3

Last week, I had lunch with one of my best friends from college, who is going into his tenth year of teaching English literature at a Georgia high school. He's black, as are many of his students. He made a couple of points that I found interesting:

1. No Child Left Behind: He agreed with the ideals behind this law, but he was very stressed out over the fact that his school has to show a certain level of "Average Yearly Progress," or else the federal government can take over the school and demand that the teachers reapply for their jobs.

The problem: Too many students who are arriving in 10th grade English not even knowing how to read, and having been “socially promoted” for their entire lives. My friend said (and I paraphrase from memory):

“I’m doing the best that I know how to do, but you know how reading tests are written: They’re full of little logical tricks to make sure that you read and understood the question. How am I going to get someone who doesn’t even know how to read to pass that kind of test? It’s just impossible for me to spend one or two semesters and get someone caught up on 9 or 10 years of schooling. And then there are always some kids that just don’t care, and no matter what I try, they just won’t do the work. So the government is going to tell me that because of a handful of students that are unreachable, therefore I’m a bad teacher? No way.”

2. The conversation turned to the problems caused by fatherlessness in the black community. My friend told a story that I found very touching. Again, I paraphrase from memory:

“One of my kids just cried like a baby the other day. This was one of the bad kids, always disruptive, bad attitude. He and I were arguing about something the other day, and I said, ‘Let’s take this out in the hall.’

“So we get out there, and he says, ‘You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my dad.’

“Then I said, ‘No, I am your dad. I’m the only grown male who is willing to stand out here, before God and before anyone else who is listening, and to tell you that I love you and that I’m here for you. Now you tell me, if that’s not a dad, then what is?’

“That’s when the kid just started sobbing.

“Anyway, after that, he was much better behaved in class. But the sad part is, that I’m still probably going to have to fail him. He hasn’t turned in about half of the assignments, and I don’t see how he is going to be able to pass my test.”


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home