While researching this topic, I learned about a teacher who also felt the need to try and make a change. She was presented with a class of students who were labeled unteachable or below average. This group of students were not expected to succeed and they were well aware of those expectations. This teacher, know as Ms. G. refused to accept those assumptions and became an instrument of change in the lives of her students. I challenge you to read her story. Not only is it inspiring, but it is real-life change. It is confirmation that we as teachers can help students break a cycle and beat the odds. Her story can be read here Freedom Writers.
The students in our classrooms are not very different from the students Ms. G taught. Yes, they were in high school and probably more aware of their social standing. My students are 1st graders, but they too are well aware of their obstacles. This past week, I had my students complete a poem biography. I was not expecting what I received. The concept was to write a sentence about several things, such as "I dream...., I wish....., I love....., I worry... etc. The answers were eye opening. Things such as "I worry about never seeing my mom." "I dream of meeting my dad." "I want to go to college." "I wish I had cute clothes." These type of pressures are heavy. How can we expect a six year old to be motivated to read and write, when their basic needs are being compromised? I believe the solution can be found in teachers who give their all to their students. We must offer a place of safety and security where worries are left at the door. Perhaps if we examine the freedom writers model, we can find ways to bring that success to our own classroom.
Maybe if we drop the stereotypes and walk away from the ideology that certain students are going to fail, we will begin to see the very students in question succeed. When that happens, then we will all succeed. Isn't that why we are here in the first place?