Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Refuse to cave

I know it has been a long time since I have posted and there is a lot to catch up on. But...I just had to post today about not being willing to cave. I refuse to acquiesce that students at East don't care about learning.

I have the privilege of co-teaching a high school class that students designed on Hip Hop. It is not a class using hip hop to teach a subject area; it is a class about hip hop. Students proposed it last year and it was accepted as a .5 credit elective. A group of 6 students came to a Young Writers' Camp I ran last August and framed out the curriculum, decided the assignments, and made assessments. It was a beautiful thing. As it turned out, only one of those curriculum writers ended up in the class (long story). We have 17 amazing students enrolled.

The class has only met 5 times, but I have been disappointed because it doesn't seem the kids are as excited about the class as I thought they would be. I rack my brain every night thinking about what we need to do differently. I noticed a couple of things. Attendance is a real problem. This is not news to anyone here or in urban schools generally. I realized there are interpersonal issues the students deal with and it seems like some only come to class when they know another person isn't going to be there. I can see we are competing with multiple other issues the students are dealing with at home and at school. I feel like they are excited but maybe I just haven't learned how to read it.

I say all this because as I have shared my struggle with different teachers and administrators today, the overwhelming reaction is, "welcome to East." Like I am not supposed to expect excitement and authentic engagement from our students!!! This, I refuse to do.

Luckily, just as I was about to finish this entry angrily, I ran into a teacher who talked to me at length about how expectations have been constructed for our students over time and gave me suggestions for where to go next. I was getting really discouraged that all the work we (the University) have been doing the past three years was for naught. It's isn't; I need to see past preconceptions of "engagement" or "excitement" to where the kids live and pull, not push. I knew this, but had forgotten I guess. 

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