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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

There are more important lessons than test prepping our children

There are lessons to be learned every day in our schools; lessons that never  appear on the mandated test our leaders use to measure academic success.
I find this lesson begging to be taught, begging for meaning, begging for a place in our classrooms, and I found it in an article from the Hiffington post:

A Virginia high school English teacher is under investigation for allegedly asking the only black student in the class to read a poem in a "blacker" manner. Jordan Shumate, a ninth-grader at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., says he was reading aloud Langston Hughes' "Ballad of the Landlord" when teacher Marilyn Bart interrupted him. "She told me, 'Blacker, Jordan -- c'mon, blacker. I thought you were black,'" Shumate told The Washington Post.

When the 14-year-old student declined to continue reading the poem, Bart read it herself to demonstrate what she meant. "She read the poem like a slave, basically," Shumate told the Post. When he asked whether she thought all black people speak that way, he was reportedly told to take his seat and reprimanded for speaking out of turn. The poem was written in 1940 about a black tenant thrown in jail for challenging a landlord."It's very, very unprofessional," Shumate told WJLA-TV. "It should not happen. She didn't do it to any other kids. Why did she have to do it to me?"

The student brought the issue to his mother's attention after the teacher reportedly singled him out again during a lesson about stereotypes. Shumate said Bart asked him to explain why blacks like grape soda and rap music. Shumate's mother, Nicole Page, told WAMU that she is "very sad" for her "child's loss of innocence" through the experience. The teacher had also previously asked the student to rap out a poem by black rapper and actor Tupac Shakur, Page said. "We're in 2012 with the first African American president," Page told WJLA-TV. "In this era how could such a statement be made, particularly by an English teacher?" Shumate's claims come after two shocking and racist YouTube videos surfaced in Florida last month that feature white teen girls making disparaging statements against black students. At least one of the incidents forced the video's creators to apologize and leave their Gainesville, Fla., high school. (story link
Young Jordan Shumate's Youtube video link will be part of my lesson this week. Want to see the face of a young Black America not seen on commercial television?  watch, listen and learn from Jordan Shumate what it feels like to be black in our schools: 
As Dr. Seuss said " The Places you will go:
" KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS..So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray, or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So get on your way!"
My thinking is, there are so many things more important than test scores.
There are things we need to do in our schools.
Things that are more important than making children, teachers, and schools compete against each other.

There is meaningful work needed to be done that is not covered in the new Common Core State Standards.
Work not covered on any state mastery test.
Work on improving our teaching,
Work needed to be done that is more important-than test prepping students,
Work that values Langston's use of dialect in respectful ways,
We can do better,
Our students deserve better.
Jordan certainly deserves better,
And if we could see our children as gifts, not mere test scores, perhaps we might be able to start that work. 
We have teaching mountains waiting, and policy makers who cannot see beyond the numbers.
And most importantly, we have a whole generation that expects more from us than a Race To The Top.

One last lesson missed. This one is from Florida, I found it on a Facebook plea this morning to post a picture on people's walls.
Perhaps this is by far the most important lesson facing our schools, the lesson of a young Trayvon Martin whose only crime was his skin.
Where is the lesson of the February 26, 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in our schools?
Does his tragic death fit within Secretary Arne Duncan's new Common Core Standards? 
How many young African American males have to die, before we teach the lessons most needed in our schools?
May Trayvon Martin be carried in the arms of angels,
May our Lord comfort his family in this their hour of darkness.
May God forgive a nation for failing once again to teach the lessons most needed in our schools.
Silence and apathy are not acceptable,
If you are wondering what I'm listening to on my walk this morning it's Bob Dylan's How many miles can a man walk down


  1. Our children in East Texas cannot read, write, comprehend, or make the simplest calculations! It is so shameful! No books, no classics, no cultural awareness! Go away STATE TESTING!

  2. You have it right Anonymous. The amount of money spent on NCLB had the potential to change schools for the better, but instead our policy makers found ways to enrich private enterprises. They found ways to spend billions outside our classrooms. 1.2 trillion dollars could have provided schools with real help in the classroom next to our children. The children, parents, teachers, and schools of East Texas deserved something more than blame. They deserved real help in the classroom. We want an audit, a full accounting of where and who every dollars went to.
    Thank you for commenting,