Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Possible!

I saw Waiting for Superman this weekend. The movie kept telling me. "It is possible!" which is the theme of the accompanying website.The trailer can give you a good idea, but you have to see the movie, if you want to believe that it is possible for all children, when given a chance,to succeed in school.

But they don’t tell enough about HOW and WHAT the good teachers do. Just that those kids aren’t hopeless, and can really do well if the teacher – and the students – persist. Of course all the students whose parents have put their names in lotteries to get into a good charter school are also interested in the success of their children, no matter what their socio-economic status. Two kids had parents with college education, but one was living with a grandmother with minimal education, as did her (new deceased) children; but she didn’t want that to continue to the next generation. So you can’t discount the effects of the parents.

Diane Ravitch published a scathing review of the movie in The Myth of Charter Schools in the most recent New York Review of Books, dated November 11. She keeps wondering why they didn't show public schools that work, well knowing (as is documented in the film) that only a small percentage of charters really do work.)
For many people, these arguments require a willing suspension of disbelief. Most Americans graduated from public schools, and most went from school to college or the workplace without thinking that their school had limited their life chances. There was a time—which now seems distant—when most people assumed that students’ performance in school was largely determined by their own efforts and by the circumstances and support of their family, not by their teachers. There were good teachers and mediocre teachers, even bad teachers, but in the end, most public schools offered ample opportunity for education to those willing to pursue it. The annual Gallup poll about education shows that Americans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the quality of the nation’s schools, but 77 percent of public school parents award their own child’s public school a grade of A or B, the highest level of approval since the question was first asked in 1985.
The students left behind in the public schools may have more problems than just teachers alone can handle. But then maybe we should do what we can to make it work, since the message of "Superman" is that it is possible - but maybe harder.
The teachers in these schools believe it can be done (and none of the classrooms had 40 kids in them either.) We need to believe it is possible, believe in our students, and persist in motivating them to believe in themselves.
So despite Diane Ravitch, go see the movie and encourage any teachers or future teachers to see it! And then go to the movie's website or to to see how it’s done.
"Superman" is a real tear-jerker at the end, where you wait along with the children you have gotten to know to see if they win the lottery for the school they hope will change their lives.  (Only one does, which makes it all the more poignant.)
Among the credits at the end, they wrote text “possible” to 77177 which will get you on a mailing list and a $15 gift certificate to where you give to help teachers purchase equipment for their classrooms (which I have done for 4 different projects, and looking forward to giving my $15.)

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