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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tragedy Beyond the Frame

No school is perfect. It counts for a LOT that our district is fighting past mistakes tooth and nail, but I can't help but regret the enormous implications of what has already been done, or not done, as the case may be.

Our kids can't fucking read. Okay? Yet somehow, they graduate. Through years of learning tricks to test-taking, these intelligent young men and women mastered the art of rephrasing the question, looking for key words in both the question and the passage provided, and scraping by with passing grades on the state graduation test, without ever really understanding most of the content involved. Then we hand them their diploma which may as well have an enormous middle finger printed on to it as we send them out into the big wide world with the reading and math abilities of the average 4th grader at the most. Obviously, not all of our kids function at that level, but more than you'd care to imagine, take it from me.

They also have minimal skills in many social areas, as their over-inflated egos are the result- not of hard work and dedication to their goals- but of our fear to allow anyone not to "win", our reluctance to hold them to true deadlines, and to the higher standards I know them to be capable of. We need no longer patronize them with a round of applause merely for showing up to school at all. They don't need that and they don't want it. It's akin to pity, and that serves no purpose other than to indulge the adults in that warm fuzzy feeling that they do what they can for these poor kids.

A couple of years ago, I got a call from an ex-student. He had come to me as a sixth grader who read at the second grade level. He was very sweet and temperamental, and I did what I could to drill him on simple words he failed to recognize and encouraged him to enjoy the novels I had selected for the class to read (depending on their reading level), but I knew our one class a day wasn't enough to remedy the enormous gap that lay between him and the norms. He left our school district and I never heard from him again until his call. He was 19 by then and I hardly recognized his deep, manly voice! He sounded so excited that it really was me and that I still worked for the same district, though I had moved to the high school since I had last taught him. He was wondering if he could ask something of me. He asked me if I had any possible way of meeting up with him out side of school to teach him to read. Do you know how heart breaking that was for me to hear? How it brought to home the fact that we FAILED that kid. And I don't mean that we gave him an F, I mean we EPICALLY FAILED that child. We passed him on, and passed him on, which was easier to do since he had a learning disability... "You can't let these kids fail"... That would be cruel, wouldn't it?

Wouldn't it?


Anonymous said...

Man, I hate to hear that. Were you able to help him out?

TeacherLady said...

Sadly, no. I called back the number he left on my voice mail and his older brother picked up and sounded amused at my call. For whatever reason, my student never called me back again.