*Did you get the Friends reference in the title?
I’ve got to be honest about some things that have really been on my mind educationally. It is no secret that my heart lies with helping struggling students succeed mathematically. However lately I have figured out that in order to really help these students my focus has to be so much broader than helping MY students succeed in math.
It Takes a Village
I know that subtitle is cliché but I don’t think there has ever been a time when that statement is more true educationally than it is today. If we are going to truly make a difference not in math education or literacy but a difference in making ALL students successful then it has to stop being about MY kids and YOUR kids and THEIR kids and it has to start being about OUR kids.
It bothers me tremendously that when we talk about struggling or at risk learners we only look at them as a math and language arts problem. First and foremost as a building if we are really going to move these kids it has to be an all of us problem. Every novice student is the responsibility of not only the math and language arts teacher they have but of all the teacher and staff in the building regardless of if they ever walk in their classroom.
On a larger level I think I districts have to look at all novice students as a district problem not just a school level problem. I literally just heard 2 teachers from the same district talking and blatantly admitting they wouldn’t tell the other what initiatives they were doing with their students building wide because they didn’t want their “ideas” stolen. Am I the only one that sees a huge issue there? As teachers I know we do that (sometimes myself included) because we want o do whatever we can to give ourselves a leg up scores wise. But if our heart is really with these kids, if we really want to raise these kids up, shouldn’t we be offer everything we have to everyone who needs it?
And again it is larger than Districts. As schools, districts, states, and a nation we should want to do everything we can to raise every kid in America up. It isn’t about which state ranks where, who can be the first to do something, or being the best. It is about doing everything we can to make EVERY child in the United States College and Career Ready.
Every Child Needs Access to High Quality Materials
What I am going to say here won’t be popular but as educators we have to stop making education about making a dollar. Every child needs EQUAL access to high quality materials. I get that making activities, games, and card sorts takes time but when you get that really great activity and you know it works, why wouldn’t you want every child to have access to that? Why are we selling it on Teachers Pay Teachers, putting it behind lock and key, or hiding it in our room to make sure no one “steals it”?
I am not just talking about teachers either. If some of our big education companies really cared about seeing students succeed why would they make their materials so financially unattainable for our neediest schools and students?
I applaud what people like Fawn Nguyen, Andrew Stadel, Julie Reulbach, and so many others who put everything they have out there for the taking. Then there are companies like Desmos, MathShell and Illustrative Math that want to create and give resources and lessons to teachers that are rigorous and address all three components of the Common Core.
I am telling you right now though teachers and students need more. Every child in America needs access to Mathalicious lessons, Buzz Math, DreamBox, and other high quality lessons every day.
So here is my challenge to you today. Start with your building today. How can you in your building help every teacher take ownership of every student in your building, especially the struggling ones. How can your art teacher support struggling students, how can your custodian help, how can your bookkeeper help, how can every person in your building help the kids that need it the most.
My second challenge is this, what do you have right now in your classroom that you could share? What great idea do you have? What awesome activity helped your kids? What are you doing that is making it a difference? You all have something to share, let’s get it out there and use it to lift all students up.