After successfully teaching 47 years in “ghetto” schools, I take umbrage with Frosty Wooldridge’s assessment of them in his editorial, “Ruminations of a Baby Boomer..…” He placed the blame for his “flight” from these schools on factors besides himself. He stated that “nothing works in ghetto schools…..” but that is irrefutably incorrect in my experience.
IQ’s do not dictate a child’s curiosity. Curiosity has to be fed, watered, and nourished carefully by wonderful parents and teachers. As children find answers to their curiosity, they begin to feed themselves. Teachers and parents nourish this curiosity by asking open-ended, critical thinking questions, allowing the kids to explore for answers. Curiosity is thwarted by criticism from others, not an IQ. We see this with “ghetto” students going to Ivy League schools, while scions of wealthy, entitled parents struggle with reading comprehension.
Trust me, I have seen “ghetto” students as young as first grade go for the jugular of a teacher that has no respect for them. They appear to have an inherent ability to “sniff out” hypocrisy and disrespect of a potential teacher. They can make a teacher flee these classrooms very quickly.
So; what makes a teacher successful with inner city children? Above all, a teacher must respect the students through modeling. I respected their culture, their parents, their poverty conditions and continue to share weddings, funerals, graduations and other celebrations with former students today. I spent lots of time allowing them to speak and figure out important life skills. I taught them how to respect and communicate with each other. Teachers must facilitate students’ beliefs and foster ownership of their abilities within themselves. Teachers must get their feet off the back of their students’ necks so they can breathe, inflating confidence in their own abilities.
Yes, poverty brings horrible living conditions. Horrible landlords like Trump and Kushner breed atrocious slums. Illiteracy, drugs, and obesity are rampant across all of America, not just in ghettos. We continue to blame them for their problems, but could we also be a part of the systemic, institutionalized racism that exists today? White America created redlining to keep minorities out of neighborhoods. Why can’t we sit at the table, share a meal and communicate with each other? Segregation is hampering opportunities for discourse. Bull Connor and others turned police dogs on African Americans during the 1960’s. African American homes were firebombed by whites. Whites fled the cities and schools rather than send their children to schools with minority children. There are two systems of justice in policing today as minority parents must school their children in the “proper behavior” with a police officer. When is white America going to school their children regarding the inane murdering of minorities by police?
How do we solve the rich vs. poor problem in America? White America takes its foot off the back of their necks, allowing minorities the same educational, health care, housing, and many other opportunities whites have living in America! Then, we see students become doctors, lawyers, car mechanics, plumbers, electricians, bankers or anything they want to be— a contributing part in the America they love.
Karen M. Syversen
Cave Creek—47 year “ghetto” teacher