Monday, September 2, 2013

Public School Education - Not a Melting Pot - But a Rich, Savory Stew by guest blogger Roger Huie

I've long considered myself lucky to have spent my career as a high school teacher, particularly in a school that served a multi-ethnic and multi-socioeconomic student population. I saw that regardless of background almost all students want an education and worked to get one. That even the ones who didn't appear to care about their education actually did care. Sometimes I wouldn't recognize this until years later when I would run into an apparent underachiever who was doing quite nicely in his/her life, who was pleased for the opportunity to share this and to tell me that I and other teachers had made a difference.

I also realized that not every student starts with the same opportunities. The children of the poor and illiterate, even if they have the same native intelligence, start out considerably behind the children of middle and professional classes. If you've not been read to, if there's no reading material in the home outside of food labels, if you are not surrounded by the products of success or even the hope of it, then academic achievement, let alone financial achievement may not be a priority or even seem a realistic goal.

Nor is every student destined to be a rocket scientist. Most teachers take each student from where they are when they enter their classroom and try to take them as far as they can go. This is why, even though I coached most of my career, I minimized competition in my classroom: If we are trying to lift all students why create an environment in which there are winners and losers. The ultimate competition is with yourself, whether in academia or in sport. We should encourage students to achieve to the best of their ability, and understand that not all of them will achieve the same heights.

Finally, I was lucky to work with colleagues from a variety of ethnic groups and all walks of life that were, no matter our differences, united in our efforts to help our students achieve. Knowing white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Christians, Muslims, and Jews (I could go on) as professional educators helped alleviate many of the prejudices humans are heir to. And to those who are still engaged in teaching, I commend you for your efforts. Regardless of the bad press that swirls around our profession, if you are doing your job, your students know it, even if they don't recognize it or acknowledge it now.
One teacher answers the question, "What do you make?"