Be The Change…

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 17 2011

The achievement gap will never be un-ugly…..

The long awaited day has come and gone – the first day of school. Everyone seems to say that so much rides on this day. I don’t believe them, at least not yet. What I saw today was that the bell schedule was all wrong, students were in and out of my class constantly going to assemblies and what-not, and I felt like a general circus entertainer. We would start talking about a syllabus, classroom procedure, or something and then the intercom would go off and tell students or teachers some random message.

And then tomorrow we have an assembly in the morning which means I won’t see my morning classes for the full time. I teach 6 sections of the same class and after the first day, they are already on different levels. It’s frustrating as the instructional leader of my classroom that so little notification has been given to us about the first day procedures for the school so all the teachers, new and old, just wing it and do our best.

All that venting aside, the day went well. It was the reminder I needed lately as to why I am here. It happened during 3rd period, when we were talking about foreign language and it’s cross-content usefulness. We started talking about reading, and literacy and a student says (direct quote – I went straight to my desk and wrote this down) “The only book a black man knows how to read is a checkbook.” I think my jaw dropped and I asked him to repeat what he said because I was so sure I didn’t hear him right. No, I did. Loud and clear. This, my dear blog reader, is the achievement gap. It’s racism mixed with broken down spirits and students who have long been told they are too stupid to achieve. I told the student that there were plenty of black people in the world who can read, and by the end of this year he was going to one of them. He told me no-one else ever cared if he read or not so why should I? Well, I care. I care a lot. I care so much I wrote down his quote on my computer, my desk, and at my house and any time I begin to feel doubt as to what I’m doing or why I’m here – I look at that quote and feel anger, rage, and sadness. I feel compelled to be the change. I’m so angry by that quote that I’ve actually set out to change my year-long curriculum after meeting my classes today. Originally, I wanted to teach a lot about history and geography. Not anymore. We will be reading – and we will be reading a lot in my class. I have started to find articles, ideas, and even started working with the English department to borrow some books for a few units in when we discuss Latin American culture and literature. I’m still going to teach history and geography….but through literature. Why this change in my curriculum and such? It’s actually rather simple. After this year, never again will my student be able to say that the only thing he can read is a checkbook. I will teach him how to analyze a text, how to debate an article, and how to write a story himself. I will show him the empowerment in literature so that, in my largest hopes and biggest heart, he will use literature to empower himself after he leaves my room in a short 179 days…..

2 Responses

  1. Jen

    Mr. Gray

    You have touched me so with this post. It is truly amazing that this is still such a problem in this country. We know it is there but we forget I guess.

    I can not wait to see the progress you make with these students as I know there will be progress in a forward direction. You will hit many forks in this road but yes reading that students quote will remind you why you chose to do what you are doing.

  2. We’re hoping to see a strong showing from Delta CMs in the “Why is teaching important” contest. It will take ~1 minute to enter! Tell other Deltas.

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A small town person with big world dreams

Mississippi Delta
High School
Foreign Language

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