I look across my desk at the students in my classroom, at the tops of their heads really, their faces lowered as if in reverence. They pore over their standardized test. Maybe some of them should take a moment of reverent prayer; they’re taking a re-test after all. This is their second attempt at passing the Reading test, and at this point, I say we leave no stone unturned.
Since all we teachers can do during these tests is actively monitor (gone are the good ole days of knocking out a set of research papers and finalizing grades), I’ve been busy keeping myself busy. My students would be horrified to know I’ve spent the last five minutes figuring out which animal each of them most closely resembles.
You’ll be glad to know that representing my room today are a baboon, a koala bear (his nose though!), a mouse, a cheetah (cute kid, lots of freckles), and a raccoon (it’s safe to say, he didn’t win that fight last week).
All in a day’s work at this campus on the corner of 32nd and Avenue P.
We’ve worked really hard this year to get to this point. The kids don’t need to know I’m totally freaking out inside—USE YOUR STRATEGIES! READ THE PAIRED PASSAGES FIRST! OPEN THE DADGUM DICTIONARY RESTING RIGHT BESIDE YOU OR I MAY BE TEMPTED TO BEAT YOU WITH IT AFTER THE TEST! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL MANKIND, DON’T YOU DARE PUT YOUR HEAD DOWN ON YOUR DESK AND CLOSE YOUR EYES!—but I’m totally freaking out inside. Because a ton of them are SO CLOSE to passing. Some of them are THIS CLOSE to being successful.
And that’s the thing. The students on our campus are finally starting to come around to the idea that education is valuable, and what’s more, some of them are starting to believe that they can be good at it. The adults here are hard at work affecting a positive change. We are undergoing a cultural shift here at 32nd and P. And you should take notice. We know that if our families and our immediate neighborhoods will begin to show that they value what’s happening at school, then we’ll be successful in teaching our kids.
We’re not there yet—dear goodness! How many times this year have I joked with my partner teacher to get my bail bond money ready after particularly grueling days? I’ve spent many days this year feeling frustrated or discouraged. But this campus is SO CLOSE to reaching the point where we can turn the corner.
Our teachers are in the trenches every day, working their hearts out to affect change. Lessons are innovative and engaging; a literacy movement is pushed and supported by every discipline on campus—even in classes like P.E. and Orchestra. Our teachers are “best practicing” LIKE A BOSS.
Now, the downside is: the numbers will betray us. The numbers don’t know how far we’ve come and where we’re headed. There is a vision though, and eventually it will be fulfilled.
But that takes time. And the TEA and numbers are incredulously impatient. But our campus will forge on, wisely recognizing the progress being made and the time needed to bring change to fruition.
So, what are the keys our little campus on 32nd and P will need in order to turn the corner?
1. Keep HOPE strong. Scripture says “never grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). I’m guilty of losing that vision myself. Many days may make you want to lose your mind and take up heavy drinking, but hang in there. Keep an eye on the Big Picture. Change the “neighborhood”; change the school.
2. Be positive.
Attitudes are contagious. Positivity yields positivity. Negativity yields negativity.
3. Continue to teach that school is different from home/the streets.
Let’s convey the idea that education is important; knowing the answers is cool. And both teachers and students alike will be professionals.
And our kids can be successful.
They’re not there yet, but eventually they will be.
Keep an eye out for this school in the next 5 to 10 years. With the right leadership and a sustained vision, you’re going to wonder what those people are doing down there at 32nd and P. You’ll be learning from them.