We had a nice chat on the phone with G tonight. As the oldest of our three offspring, and the first to fully “leave the nest,” he’s helping us to understand our changing role as parents of adults. As much fun as he was as a kid--and he was tremendously fun--we’re deeply grateful for the relationship we have with him as a young man.
He sought out an opportunity to join Teach For America, and has just started teaching in a school in a rural part of Mississippi, where poverty and underachievement have had the upper hand for way too long. Teach For America is not a miracle cure for the long-term educational effects caused by poverty, classism, and racial discrimination. It is, however, a corps of determined, energetic, talented people who are making an impact in schools where the urgency for change is high. These teachers are, on the whole, creating larger-than-expected learning gains for their students. I’m proud G is one of them.
He’s about seven weeks into his gig as a 7th Grade Science teacher, and is finding that there’s a lot to learn about all the moving parts in the community he is serving. It sounds as if he is truly committed to the idea that all students must succeed, but the work is incredibly hard every hour, every day. The culture alone is so different, but you really have to look deeper than that to make change. For his students, it’s the behavior, the gaps in learning, and the disconnects within the school system, that must all be addressed at the same time. According to G, the true “tipping point” will be achieved when his kids show that they believe in themselves.
Last Friday night, G and one of his colleagues went to the local high school football game, and saw lots of their students there. They were genuinely excited to see “Mr. Cah-lah” there, too, and apparently that felt pretty good! Even the kiddos that had been in trouble in class that same day for their behavior were happy to see him there. It's becoming more obvious that these kids and their teacher are building relationships together. He is committed to showing respect to every student, and insisting that they are good enough to be successful. He wants them to see that for themselves.
These students are beginning to believe their teacher cares about them. You’ve got to like the chances that he will be a high-impact teacher.