Making a Difference In Our Classrooms
I just finished reading a blog post on TribTalk by Katie Plemmons, a high school teacher in Del Valle ISD, entitled The Heartbreak of Being a Teacher in Texas and it’s discouraging. She writes about the upcoming start of the school year:
As we return to our classrooms, we always notice those who do not: experienced teachers who have left, whose loss is a loss for our students.
During the 90’s, I taught in low income neighborhoods for six years – first as a reading/math teacher and then teaching science and history. It was at once illuminating, inspiring and soul crushing. I enjoyed having the opportunity to directly impact young people’s lives on a day to day basis. You see so many students just overflowing with potential and it’s truly gratifying to see them unlock it. At the same time, you begin to recognize the limits to what you can do in the classroom.
There are so many factors that play into whether a student is truly learning. Did they eat last night? Is there emotional trauma that needs to be addressed? What gets them excited and truly ready to work? How do they learn best? Great teachers notice these things because they are primarily concerned about the students rather than the subjects they are teaching. This may sound counter-intuitive to some of our lawmakers and administrators but if these other factors are not addressed, students ultimately are not going to learn. Ms. Plemmons goes on to write:
When you work with students every day, you learn that each one is unique. We do not have standardized students, and recognizing the challenges each student deals with requires experience, time and individual attention, which are in short supply in an era of standardized testing and crowded classrooms. Teachers must navigate these challenges while meeting the demands of our school’s unique culture.
We are loosing great experienced teachers every year due to simple burn out. Lack of compensation, community support and appreciation. These issues disproportionately affect our less affluent populations where teachers tend enter and leave classrooms at an alarming rate. Again Ms. Plemmons writes:
When teachers leave, students lose role models and academic support. Collaborative planning teams lose educators who know the curriculum, have had success and have built team unity. As a fifth-year teacher, I have been at Del Valle High School longer than 90 percent of my department. My English I team has had 60 percent turnover three years in a row, and student achievement has not yet matched performance prior to that turnover.
E4 Youth is doing our part in supporting these dedicated high school classroom teachers. By providing College Mentors in Classrooms, curriculum/staff development combined with advanced access to tours, job shadowing and industry events like SXSW, we are developing a vital pipeline of creative talent.
Visual artist Patrick Parker talks about his experience with Shadow the Pros summer program.
Each teacher we work with helps us establish a talent pool of 100+ students in their community. Then, working with our partners like GSD&M and SXSW, we connect promising youth with old school pros that coach them to become great.