I just read one of the most encouraging and equally depressing articles by Bill Ferriter. The article is written with an unusual honesty. It was written by a teacher who has won teacher of the year in North Carolina. A teacher that went from the suburbs to the urban school and quickly retreated.
In his post, he says that working at the lower socioeconomic school (30%+ lower se - my elementary school is 90%+ lower se) crossed the line from "career" to "calling". That encouraged me, because I definitely see my job as a calling.
It encouraged me because he is an accomplished, quality educator. And guess what, his class in the urban school wasn't performing at the exemplary standard that his class in the suburbs had met.
It made me feel good to hear the two schools called the "easy" and the "hard" schools to teach at. Too often I read about general educational policy and the language in those articles has to treat all schools and teachers as the same. Meaning that a successful teacher in one school would be successful in any school. I've always known that to not be true, but it does eat away at a teacher striving to help his students. My first year I managed to get 80% of my students to pass the test, and that school was 40% lower se. Then I improved professionally but moved to the urban school - where my students' scores are markedly worse.
It was depressing because the conclusion of his experience was that the plight of the urban child was failure. I know his call is to change policy, a call for equity. But I don't have time for that to happen. Nor to I have time for excuses. It was depressing because he attempted to pull out the only chair I stand on; hope for a difference. He honestly and accurately portrayed a poorer school. Then he quit.
I would like to adjust his conclusion to what I would have preferred to have read.
So I quit. I went back to the suburban school. I learned that year that it takes much more than a good career teacher to be successful in a poorer school. I'm not sure what it takes. Some luck? Great support? Definitely a calling and an intrinsic drive that doesn't get deterred by outside criticism. All I know is that we on the outside, those who haven't been there, the legislators and taxpayer, the suburban teacher and educational policymaker, need to understand what it is really like. So let's stop blaming the teacher, let's not blame the student because they deal with extreme situations, let's not blame anyone. Let's do what we ask of our students and children, let us take responsibility for what we can control and figure out a way to help. Let's fight for equity, because if you're blaming the teachers then you'll have to retract my teacher of the year award.
I mean no offense by that alternate conclusion and I know that it is more like a childish rant than a real conclusion to Bill's post. I simply disagree with the statement that not all students can achieve academically. Let me believe that, even if what you say is true.