In my own teaching practice, I have often wrestled with the question "Am I asking enough of my students?" After watching Dalton Sherman's, "Do you believe?" and then reading about the incredible inequities in California from the book The Flat World of Education by Darling-Hammond, I am convinced that we can do better for our students.
I know that at New Tech High, we are a 1:1 school and have some great resources, including two computer labs, large format printers, promethean boards in every classroom, and a beautiful building in which to learn. I also know that down the road in Vallejo, the situation is much more grim with decaying buildings, lack of good teachers and lack of resources. And why is that? Why is there such inequity across different school districts?
I know that it is important for us to get more vocal with our desires for things to be better in education in this state. I am moved by reading the book in seeing that there is a direct correlation between how well we pay and support teachers through professional development, pre-training and mentorship, and student achievement.
More than any other strategy that is put into place, when we invest in hiring and creating experienced and well-qualified teachers, we raise achievement scores. I am appalled by the stories of low-income students, particularly of minorities, that deal with the rotating door of teachers that are untrained, unprepared and inadequate. Some students have as many as 5 different teachers in the course of one year in one subject. Often they have substitutes that come for a few months and then leave due to low pay and poor teaching conditions. No wonder achievement scores are so low in these communities.
What can I do in my classroom to address this? I would like, very much to address this issue in an upcoming project for my Digital Media 1 class. I was going to introduce the idea of Inequity, as a general concept to the students so that they could create their own video addressing whichever unequal situation they would like to research. I will be introducing the inequity in our schools as one option for students to explore and will be researching media, resources and readings to introduce students to the situation.
I believe that my students can rise to the occasion, if asked to make a clear statement and call to action around a very real, very pressing issue that affects every one of them as students. I've been thinking about how to have students take a more social action approach to some of my projects and I think this would be a perfect fit. I can not wait to see what they come up with and how we can explore this topic together as a learning community! Anyone know a lobbyist in Sacramento that we can meet with about this issue? Any bills that are up for a vote that we can learn more about? I think it's time to spring into action and do something that could help the cause of inequity in education.
If we want to make America great again, perhaps it's time to turn our attention away from the size of a candidate's hands and back toward education. If we want things to change in our country, I believe the best thing I can do is prepare the students in my class to be able to speak their minds through video, art, writing, games, and to think of themselves as agents of change as they bring their whole minds and bodies to a real-world problem.
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!