Sunday, June 21, 2009

Standing a Chance

Minding the Education Gap

I arrived at the school Monday last week. It wasn't much to look at, and has indeed been slated for demolition next year. Rows of nearly windowless, low rising redbrick buildings organized to mimic WWII era army barracks and bunkers are separated by narrow concrete pathways and patches of crabgrass.

It was my first vision of what I had just gotten myself into. All at once the pieces came together and the picture became real. I met my students to perform a series of diagnostic tests and was heartened to find that everyone of them was sweet and sincere. Nothing, however, not the statistics or documentaries, my own experiences or previous school visits around Chicago could have prepared me for the feelings of angst and anger as I graded their tests. My soon-to-be eighth graders were robbed of an education and were struggling to master fourth grade math and reading skills.

I had been planning to go out that night. The week had been long and stressful and I wanted some fun. Sitting with my teaching partners entering the marks of each student's tests changed my plans. "number 3?" "wrong." "number 4?" "wrong." "number 5?" "wrong." I couldn't bring myself to waste any time. Maybe next week, but for now I have work to do.