Please allow me a moment:
"One teacher can't change this," she said, adding, "Maybe you should just give in a little." This senior girl sat across from me, her SAT prep book opened on the cafeteria table scribbled with something about someone. Maybe I shouldn't have let her hear my annoyance with the group of students crushing pretzels and making fake cocaine lines on the table behind us. It isnt' the first time I've worn my emotions on my sleeve--it's a weakness of mine.
"If it bothers you so much, why do you keep teaching here," she asked. And its a complicated question to answer. Do these underperforming students in a largely forgotten district deserve caring and dedicated teachers? Yes. Can I be that for them? I am beginning to wonder.
I can't imagine that her attitude towards the school, her own annoyance with student behavior is clear, is limited to just a few. But is the writing on the wall? Can one teacher, two teachers, three...make a difference? With all that has been written lately about effective teachers and their ability to create change in a student's life, is it just smoke and mirrors?
Can a dysfunctional public urban school change? Will a state takeover make the difference? Fat chance. Will a lovey dovey cajole them along approach get them to behave more appropriately? So far, not really. Do high standards matter? Not if the students don't want them.
"Well, I guess you have three choices. You can leave; you can stay and be frustrated; or you can stay and give in." I wonder if those are the only options.