In case you weren’t aware, I was an English major with an education minor in college. My favorite classes of all were the ones in education. I think it might have been because my teacher was absolutely incredible. She had a way of bringing me out of my shell and actually opening my mouth, for the first time in my entire school career. She made me feel like my opinions and thoughts actually mattered. She was truly trans-formative for me. Maybe we can all remember someone like that in our lives?
How Children Succeed is an amazing read if you are interested in the intersection of poverty, education and the education-reform movement. It discusses that SAT scores are not the path to a fulfilled life. It highlights grit and character as the pieces that truly matter in making students successful and shows that they lead to a more rewarding life. It follows a girl through an upbringing filled with major traumatic events who ends up having more courage and grit than any of her more privileged counterparts. It also describes the intervention that made it possible for her to overcome her past and climb mountains like none of us will ever know. The book further details how learning to fail is one of the most crucial parts to becoming a successful adult; how taking risk can lead to a life most exceptional.
There are many non-for-profits out there within the educational space that are searching tirelessly to intervene during the middle school years and get to those students who might not be showing up as exceptional within the test scores nor showing any type of “typical” promise. But for the amount of trauma they have seen in their childhood, it is almost as if they are doomed from the start. How can any of us truly expect that these kids will self-select and without any help or support suddenly gain the self-discipline to get there on their own?
There is no doubt that exceptional teachers are a crucial part of the system and I have many friends that face very difficult days trying to make a difference in children’s lives. To all of you, I salute you and always have. The energy and resolve you bring to your job each and everyday is so admirable. As far as the rest of us go, we can make a difference if we keep our ears, eyes and hearts open. Successful children who were once at risk often name someone who came into their lives to show them that there was a different path. This could be a neighbor, volunteer, family member, etc. There is no limit to the difference we can make if we are conscientious and jump in with both feet to raise each other up. Community matters.