Waiting for high expectations. That’s what all the good teachers and good schools featured in the “Waiting for …” excellence in education documentary had in common. We can all agree on that.
Waiting for world class standards. Good schools are based on curricular models AND instructional models that are demonstrated to yield results.
Waiting for there to be good teachers in every classroom. Waiting for every child to have access to the curricular models and teachers who will inspire them to be all they can be.
Waiting for accountability.
I feel a little like Geoffrey Canada says he felt when he realized he couldn’t turn the problems with education around as easily as he had hoped the day he started teaching. After a 40+ year career in education, and having made a positive difference in the lives of lots of children, I had still lost hope. It wasn’t enough. As one parent had said to me, “It felt a little like building a beach, one grain of sand at a time.”
This movie both rekindles my hope and exacerbates my worry. Why did I exit the movie crying? Because Bianca, Daisy, Anthony and the other children in the movie each represent so many children like them. I was crying tears for the children whose stories had just touched my heart, but moreover for all the children without guaranteed options.
We are asked to act. Beyond what I am already doing in taking my WCATY message to the next generations through children’s books and parenting support, I resolve to take these steps:
- I join the team of concerned citizens who will work with Kaleem Caire and the Madison Urban League toward the goal of opening a top notch school for boys who are not making it in the system – Madison Prep.
- I pledge to share my background in instructional philosophies and models that go beyond world class curriculum in setting the stage for excellence in education, i.e., my message to Madison Prep is the same as it was to Madison Country Day School: World class curriculum is great, but it is just the base. Individual pacing and relevancy, high expectations, inspiring teaching, supported learning, accountability … these must all be added to the curricular base.
- I will continue to establish mentor programs and/or work as a mentor when that is the best choice for making a difference. In particular, as I left the movie theater, I thought, “Madison Prep, if it is over-subscribed as I expect it will be, will have the same problem as the great schools in the movie that were portrayed as using a lottery system of selection. Maybe what we need are mentors for all the children who DON’T get selected.” Maybe the students and parents of the students who do get selected could become a part of the mentor team. This is an idea that excites me. We’ll see where it goes.