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A thought about tracking

20 Oct

Most professional athletes spend their whole lives working towards their athletic goal, right? Middle school kids will get up and train before school if it means a leg up against their competition. Young girls training for the Olympics will move away from their families in order to train with the best coaches.
When we track students, we are saying “you are heading for college and success.” They believe it, much like these young athletes. They work for it, because they have a goal and someone (probably many people) who believe in them.
What if we put all students on the college track? What if we told all of our students that they were heading for college (or career, or major league sports)? How motivated would they be?
The principal at my elementary placement believes that all of his students can go to college. He is motivating the teachers to express that belief every day. Will it work? I believe so.

Public School Integration, 21st Century Style

30 Sep

Although parts of it make me cringe (“I feel like at this age, they don’t really see color,”) this is a fascinating little article from NPR about white, upper-class parents in Birmingham, Alabama, sending their children to public schools, which are 95% black, and 90% free- and reduced-lunch.

New Wave Of School Integration In Birmingham, Ala.

Although the article focuses mainly on the gentrification and racial issues, there are a few points that relate directly to things we’ve talked about in class. For one, the above quote about how kids “don’t see color.” Adults seem to have this strange idea that children are color blind. They see color, but many of them just haven’t lived enough to know they are supposed to care about it. It is we (adults, society, history) who put meaning behind the color of a person’s skin.

The article also mentions the difference between teaching styles of inner-city school vs. the methods “favored by many middle-class parents.” To me, this is NPR’s way of noting the difference between black teachers and white teachers. There is a difference. There is nothing wrong with noting that this difference exists. Reading Vivian Paley’s White Teacher, and Lisa Delpit’s review of the book in Rethinking Our Classrooms, I find it interesting to note that we talk a lot about white teachers working with black students, but not the opposite. Lisa Delpit notes that “When teachers are teaching children who are different from themselves, they must call upon parents in a collaborative fashion if they are to learn who their students really are.” (Rethinking Our Classrooms, Vol 1, p 160) This goes both ways. I hope that the teachers at this school in Birmingham are comfortable collaborating with the parents of their new students. Only then will these students truly receive the full power of a multicultural education, as discussed in the article.

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