Let’s be honest, this is hard for our elementary aged students because they simply do not know what’s out there for them. They have heard of doctors, teachers, lawyers, policed officers, but even with those professions, do they really know what they entail? It is our job to gauge their awareness of the thousands of possible career paths. If we fail to help our students see the connections between what they are learning in school and possible future careers, then our students are bound to underperform.
Picking up right where we left off in chapter 3, it’s important to remember the questions you are to reflect upon throughout reading this chapter. I have included them again for your reference:
Do I know them?
Do I know how they learn?
Do I know how to keep them inspired about learning?
Do I know how to keep them motivated to excel?
Do I know their goals and aspirations?
Do I know their needs and interests?
Do I know their experiences and realities?
Do I know their challenges and obstacles?
Do I know their parents?
Do I know their neighborhoods?
Knowing Your Students’ Goals and Inspirations:
So, do your students have academic and personal goals for the school year? Is so, do you know what they are? Are they written down? Are they posted? Do you see stud nets intentionally preparing for their success?
So how do we do that? Relationships!! You have to know students and you ha to know what they know. They have to feel comfortable speaking to you openly and honestly about their goals and aspirations; if barriers exist between teachers and students, then the relationship you need will never develop.
Knowing Your Students’ Needs and Interests
The majority of us come from middle class backgrounds and with that comes our middle class perspectives and assumptions. We bring them to school everyday. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but e problem is when we impose our assumptions on students without taking their backgrounds, including needs and interests into consideration.
Our students have a wide variety of needs beyond the basic; food, clothing and shelter. Again, of you have no relationship with them, you will never know what they truly need. Tens of thousands of children report to school hungry everyday because hey have nothing to eat at home. How and why do we expect these students to focus on school when they are sitting in your room hungry? Fortunately, our students have the option to eat breakfast and efforts are in place to increase the number being served. In addition to going hungry, many students are homeless and/or living in deplorable conditions. You may know your students are homeless, but you will never know to what extent, if you do not know your students and to what extent these needs are impacting their education or ability to learn in your classroom.
We must learn our students interests. Coming from our middle class backgrounds, bring our middle class interests that may be different than our students. We may help them connect to interests and potential career paths related to those interests.
Knowing Your Students’ Experiences and Realities
What is it like to walk in your students’ shoes? Do you know? Could you handle what they handle outside of school on a daily basis? How can you come to know this information? You can talk to students about their lives, visit their homes, get to know their parents and families, but this would be most impactful outside of school. Are you willing? What would it take?
The stories shared in Principal Kafele’s book speak of times when he did this which involved gangs, mice and ruined stained hallways. You think your experiences would be different walking into the homes of our students? Knowing what our students survive helps us hold them accountable and allows us to maintain high expectations for all.
Knowing Your Students’ Challenges and Obstacles
What kind if unique challenges do Sigler students face? Do these challenges effect their desire to excel in the classroom? Are you able to help them overcome these challenges? The only way to know is to know what the challenges are.
***a real example***
I speak with a local police officer every month or so, to keep on top of what is happening in the community and with our students/ families. Our last meeting was a punch in the gut and a slap of reality when it comes to knowing our students experiences and challenges. A student that attended Sigler last year has found himself involved in drugs and gang activity to the point whee a known gang member was visiting the house describing what the initiation would look like (getting best up, by multiple grown men) and then being asked to take a gun and kill someone. Fortunately, the police were following the known gang member and he was arrested, but recently let out on probation. That is real! Can we change it? In my mind, I want to and I would stop at nothing while our students are at school to guide them and mold them so when e reality comes, they are equipped to make the best decision.
Knowing Your Students’ Parents
We know the involvement and engagement of parents in their child’s education is essential to their academic achievement. Students whose parents believe education sine key to their childrens’ success are far more likely to do well in school than those who are uninvolved. If you do not know your students’ parents, you do not fully know your students. We know parents can be hard to track down, and it’s not solely the teacher’s job to seek them out, rather is the school community’s responsibility. We must work collaboratively to devise strategies that will work to get parents involved.
Knowing Your Students’ Neighborhoods
Do you know your students’ neighborhoods? Do you understand them? Do you respect them? Be mindful we must be careful when we talk about students’ neighborhoods because students often are their neighborhoods-they are the products of their unique surroundings. When we lack knowledge of the neighborhood, we lack knowledge of the students. When we lack respect for the neighborhood, we lack respect for the students. So, get to know the neighborhoods. You do not need to be a fixture of the street, but we do need to develop some familiarity with what goes on their, beyond the stereotypes.
So, you interested? This week we will be having a parenting class at The Oaks, on the clubhouse. Come check it out. Later this spring we will be going door to door passing out flyers about Head Start and Pre-K so out families know the importance of having children in school at an early age.
While doing our Sigler Race activity in January, I was made aware that for some, it was the first time being at some of the neighborhood apartments or parts of the community. If that is the case, do you know your students well enough?
It’s heavy stuff folks, but it will change you, if you let it and Sigler will be the better for it.
I will keep sharing videos of Principal Kafele as they directly support the words in his book, “Closing the Attitude Gap”.