posted Friday November 15th, 2013
I have been immersed for months in a somewhat selfish pursuit: The task of finding Sophie just the right junior high.
Parenting is selfish by definition, if you do it right. You fight and scrape for your kid. Damn the rest. That’s how I feel about charter schools, when it comes to both my girls. Annabelle goes to an elite arts charter; if I had to say now, I’d guess Sophie will go to a charter, too.
I feel guilty about it in both cases. The smart kids are fleeing public schools for charters; and who am I to think our neighborhood public school won’t do a good enough job of educating Sophie? But I want the best for both girls, and in Arizona, we’ve been conditioned to believe that the best schools are charters. In some cases it’s true.
But often the charter/public (and yeah, I get that charter schools are technically public but really in so many ways they’re not — a conversation for another day) debate ignores the most important player: the teacher.
I was reminded of that the other day, when a friend who teaches public high school in the inner city pulled me out of my selfish place with a text:
Did you see today’s poem from Writer’s Almanac?
No, I replied. She forwarded it:
Gifted and Talented
by Krista Lukas
For my teaching license, I am required
to take a class called “Mainstreaming,”
in which we learn about every kind
of kid who could walk or be wheeled
through our future classroom doors.
Not the blind, the deaf, and the handicapped,
but students with
blindness, deafness, developmental delays,
autism, moderate to severe
learning disabilities, hyperactivity,
attention deficit, oppositional defiance
disorder, and so on.
The instructor, an elementary
principal by day, who outlines
each chapter and reads to us
these outlines each Wednesday
from six to nine, devotes
one hour one night to the subject
of students with
gifts and talents, who might also
come through our future.
Regarding special programs
for such students, one teacher-candidate asks,
“Do you have to be gifted to teach them?”
“No.” The principal-instructor
shakes her head, as if
such a thing would be impossible.
“Not many gifted people
go into education.”
Quite a poem, huh?
Then my friend sent an email entitled: “PS,” which I’ve edited slightly (with her permission) to eliminate identifying details:
In one class this year we have one child with selective mutism, one with Asperger’s (whose IQ is probably 150+), and one who’s bi-polar and possibly schizophrenic and very open about all of that (he may be one of my favorite students ever — he writes at the beginning of most assignments: “Here is my work. Why am i doing this? Because I want a good grade. Thank you for reading it” or something along those lines, and sometimes emails me, then emails me 2 minutes later to see if I received his message, then emails me 5 minutes later to apologize for emailing me so much. He always writes — in emails and formal assignments — “okay, bye” at the end. His hands shake when he talks to me and he says things like “Please tell me what I did wrong.”) I’ve just described three of that class period’s ten special education students. Why? Because I want you to understand our student body. Thank you for reading this.
Thank me? Are you kidding? Thank you, friend. Thank you to all the teachers.