Education is Not Elitist
Sit Out The Game
Whatever side of the aisle you’re on, chances are you were moved by a statement new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made on the House floor last week regarding climate change. In it, she stated:
"(Climate change) is not an elitist issue, this is a quality of life issue," she said. "You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the south Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint whose kids have their blood ascending in lead levels, their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives. Call them elitist." (1)
Now trade out “climate change” for “education”.
Two Simple Words
When I was starting out as a teacher, I learned that a number of my students were being privately tutored. It isn’t about your teaching, I was told. They just need the extra support at home.
What I heard instead was: Despite your best efforts, your work with this student is not enough.
The best teachers strive for excellence in teaching. By nature, most of us are invested each day with heart and mind. This is why we tend to be our own worst critics.... Yet the temptation to listen to our inner self-critic is indeed a “pernicious” endeavor.
What Does “Mean” Actually Mean?
Enough with the pretending. We all know class size matters more than we give it credit for and the LA Teachers Strike makes that point loud and clear.
Teachers Give Anonymously
So many thoughts cross my mind when I have parents and students in my office complaining that a teacher is mean. And the description, while a wholeheartedly simple term, has become weaponized in schools today. Much like the word “yell”, the word “mean” can be interpreted in so many ways, all of them subjective.
Our Students: Snowflakes or Anti-Fragile?
Yet these gifts are not in response for the moments that matter most to the young life of a future adult: those moments of breakthrough when a teacher reviews a student’s paper one-on-one. Those moments of identification when a teacher accompanies a student vocalist. Those moments of observation when a teacher puts Little Women into the student’s hands, saying, “I think you might really connect with this book, so here, take it.”
Time to Grow Our Students' Social Capital
This is where modern society gets it wrong: our tendency to bubble-wrap our children generates precisely the opposite result of its intent because at some point those bubbles will be popped and the coddled child will lack the strength to push forward. His underdeveloped wings will not support his heavy body. His stomach will not tolerate the food in front of him.
No Student is the Same
That’s right. Along with allocating money toward schools, we should also be investing our time and attention on ways to compound the valuation of social capital in our schools. We sense it when schools do this well, as they convey a strong sense of community.
I Hear You. I See You. I Trust You.
I bring up the subject of the inner world of students because being allowed access is one of the key privileges we have as teachers. Relational teachers understand that each student is a product of their environments and their individual life experiences.
Believe in Me
Trust requires connection, and students of all ages can identify authentic connection and feel safe as a result. They can also detect insincere connection—seen largely as posturing and distance—and feel anxious in that teacher’s classroom because the process of learning always involves risk.
We rarely discuss the role of belief in schools. Yet belief is an essential part of the ecosystem. Students look to their teachers to be their mentors and motivators. They want to be validated for their effort, thoughts, and ideas. They are hungry for people to believe in and for people who believe in them.