Hope Against Hope

First off, let me start with an embarrassing realization. I like to consider myself a reader. My first year of teaching, my reading amount kind of dwindled and a lot of what I read were “teacher books.” Which became overwhelming when I wanted to do everything at once! Then, I moved up a few grade levels and had a class of nonreaders. So I kicked it into overdrive and read a LOT of books for them. (Silly question- what constitutes “young adult” literature? I am finding grades 4-5 to kind of be in that weird place where they’re too old for “kid stuff” but still too young for others. Very weird (not bad way) age group!) I needed to know these books so I could match them with my students. Obviously, I will never be able to read every book out there, but I want to read as many books as I can before I put them into my class library. Meaning, I’ve been reading a lot of books aimed at people much younger than me. I still read professional “teacher books,” and the occasional beach read, but I realized something. I don’t read nonfiction outside of professional development books! And that’s pretty much the first genre I try to get my kids to read more of! 😮

Even more embarrassing, when I went to a bookstore recently, I made a beeline over to the NF section. I was a history major and LOVE history, so I thought it would be perfect. I picked up books from topics I was interested in. And they were big. LONG. And had teeny tiny print. Oh dear. There was a time that didn’t intimidate me. Then I realized I was in trouble.

Now, I do read articles and such, but that doesn’t help with the NF staminia. So, when I read an article that interested me (still about education! I NEED TO BREAK AWAY FROM THIS FOR AT LEAST A WEEK!), I noticed that it was from a book. So, I checked that book out from the library.

The book is called Hope Against Hope and it is about three different schools in New Orleans. It follows the perspective of a principal, a charter school TFA alum teacher, and a student at a KIPP school. I’m mostly reading it before I go to bed, so it’s taken me more than a day to read. (Usually, even with PD books, I can be done in three days tops. This is weird for me). However, I am having to stop to think SO much with this.

One of the things I’m thinking about is having a goal for everyone to go to college. In this, there are examples of kids who I just don’t think are ready. For example, one girl makes honor roll at her school, but only scores basic on the state test. I don’t think standardized tests are all that great, but isn’t it alarming when a kids who is making all As and Bs can’t pass a test? And then there are kids who can’t navigate college when they get there. 

I was the first in my family to go to college, and I didn’t get a lot of help from my school when I was trying to figure things out. But I was able to get everything done, including financial aid stuff. There are kids who have NO CLUE about this stuff. Then, they don’t have basic reading, writing, and math skills. 

In some of the charter schools discussed in the book, the kids have so many rules. Where to look, where to walk, how their uniforms should look. Hopefully they are learning the basic knowledge they are behind in, but are they learning how to think? How does this translate into college? Professors aren’t calling and making home visits each week. If you don’t show up to class, does anyone really care? Do the kids now how to figure out grades for each class? Do they know how to structure time on their own? College is so much different than these schools. And is it right to expect that all 100% of these kids HAVE to go to college? What about learning a trade? A lot of these schools focus only on education, not on health care or other community services. Kids will need to figure out how to take care of themselves if they go somewhere else for college.

I am truly interested in learning more about the answers to these questions, if there even are any answers. I feel like I can’t even write this post very coherently because I can’t get through typing a sentence before twelve other thoughts pop up! Hopefully it does make some sense. 

And hopefully I can continue venturing out into adult-land books! 😉

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2 responses

  1. Tara, your musings are all very substantial ones, I think. I agree with your assessment of the charter school mentioned above and many other schools if we’re all honest with each other — our job is to teach kids how to think; not what to think. It’s so easy with state mandates, district mandates, and now mandates through Common Core to see everything as black and white, one way or the highway, etc. We just have to remember that there are as many different ways to teach as there are individual students in our classes. We’re professionals — we’ve got this.

    So, my comments maybe moved from your initial topic… 😉

    Keep reading — I love that you used your slice today to process and open the space for dialogue!

    b

  2. All of this is so interesting – thanks for sharing your thinking.You have raised such thoughtful questions about all schools, and all students. I so agree that many of the choices are gone from education – everyone is expected to act the same, learn the same, BE the same. Also, I had heard that almost all NOLA schools after Katrina were charter schools – now I am wondering…Great post!

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