Friday, February 2, 2018

The F in Failure

When I mock the Nashville Public School system I know that it is not the singular worst district in the world, there are many many more.  And today I read about one in Long Island that I think exemplifies the worst characteristics of what comprises a failing district - elected officials with no experience or background in Education; corruption thanks to the ability to fraudulently generate Government contracts; nepotism, fraud, patriarchy, segregation, poverty, racism, and income inequality.

But in reality schools fail and yes charters do as one of them here, Rocketship Academy's charter which has under 100 kids, grades K-2 (yes just 3 age cohorts) is closing. I recall meeting a Teacher of sorts who also worked at Anthropologie and said it was so superior to our public schools and I should apply. Well good thing I didn't as I knew who they were and their own troubled history. But regardless of type we have another charter on the cusp list as well. The irony is that many of our public schools labeled magnet or enhanced option are also on said list.  It is much more than academics, titles and intent. 

Sorry but what people are expecting from schools once a child walks inside the doors clearly have never set foot outside the doors.

Yesterday I did a half-day at the high school down the street from where I live.  I did a Special Needs class and this one was a cohort of developmentally disabled, physically disabled, some with Autism at the high end of the spectrum and some kids I think that were fairly flux in skill set and were able to function in classes part of the day. It was perhaps the largest and yet most divisive I have seen but a team of women who were clearly engaged and supportive of the kids and the two Teachers in the lead. 

Both Teachers were going to meetings so I had one room and another Sub the other. She is there frequently and actually likes the kids and it was easy to see why, they were again so diverse and interesting you could not possibly walk out feeling anything but good for efforts made all around. That is a rare day in a SPED room.

Of course I made the mistake of having conversations with the one sub.  The two instructional assistants I spoke with kept it light and one was retiring so she was very typical of that kind of individual, short timer, grumpy about costs, having to still have a second job post retirement but her response to the kids was all there all the time so again I had no issue.  The sub however of course flagged all my bells and whistles from race to age and her being a native Nashvillian which usually means this will be a conversation to test my patience and skill set that already in full on alert mode with kids who need careful observation and support.

Our conversation centered around the transportation system or lack thereof in Nashville and I said it is why I only go to schools in a 20 minute bus radius from my home, anything longer is not worth  my time.  Hence I don't go to most of the schools in the district and  why I am often at this one as it is near my home.  She was interested in of course all things economics and what I pay for rent.  She was certain that without a car you cannot get around the city and here I was sitting here stating otherwise. As I informed her I can't pay high rent and have a car and to move for cheaper rent just to have a car is pointless when I can if need rent one or still find what I need and don't.   Of late I have relied on rental cars but I am lazy as the first year I worked here I did only by bus and can in fact get to the schools by bus and have not expanded my territory despite my laziness.  She finally got to the big question: Aren't you afraid after about an hour.  I am used to this but that normally comes from white people but then again I am not surprised as here in Nashville color is only one method of division, we have a few others. 

And today I read this article in the Guardian about those who have transcended status and moved up the class ladder and almost all struggled until they adapted.  They did not talk to those who failed and  that number is greater.  A great deal of the concept of meritocracy is about self esteem, acceptance, and in turn fitting in. 

There are more than ample stories of how the poor do not succeed in college be it financial or be it social. There are more pressures on these kids to "fit in" to "pass" and to "succeed" than those who are coming from more secure backgrounds. True you can be rich and be an idiot but there are support networks in place to ensure that from happening.  The reality is you can climb a ladder but you need people to hold in place.

I am not sure anyone has the answers to this test so we may all fail. I believe this is one hell of a polynomial equation that even Einstein would find challenging.

The reality is that what is outside the doors come in the doors if open but that doesn't mean they come ready and willing and able.  Remember a Vampire cannot come in unless invited so if you choose to allow him in then what?  Not everyone survives.

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