Sometimes – often – a child will say something so perfectly that you wonder why adults, on the whole, don’t get it. This is one of those times.
Royce Mann, 8th grader from Atlanta, Georgia, USA, wrote and performed this slam poem as part of a school competition.
“Dear women, I’m sorry.
Dear black people, I’m sorry.
Dear Asian-Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who came here seeking a better life, I’m sorry.
Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper-class white boy, I’m sorry.
I have started life on the top of the ladder while you were born on the first rung.”
Royce, quite rightly, took first place.
Ka pai, Royce – go change the world one poem at a time.
Ka pai, Royce’s teachers, for having a class on race and gender and helping people understand the issues here.
You all give me hope.
Hi, I’m Mikey and I’m OK.
I get plenty of sleep, I get up early. I’m never late to school…I’m OK.
I never call out in class, I put my hand up and answer questions when asked…I’m OK.
I sit National Standards tests which I think are boring, I get my school reports and no one is angry at me…I’m OK.
My older sister is loud, fidgets and bosses me around, my younger brother is disabled and takes up all mum’s time…But I’m OK.
I complete my homework tasks, sometimes at the last minute but the teacher says that…I’m OK.
I could do more writing with extra time or with less distractions in class but I usually finish so that’s OK.
I get LOADS of certificates at school that say I’m a magnificent member of the Middle Syndicate but when I haven’t tried 100% I still get them…Is this OK?
At home I like to sit on my own, to play on my computer or read spy books. So long as no one is arguing Mum says…that’s OK.
I’d love to be a spy like Zac Power or an inventor or a scientist like on Myth Busters. Mum loves my ambition and says…THAT’S FANTASTIC!
I’d love to film a documentary for Animal Planet and sometimes pretend with mums camera…it’s waterproof so it’s OK.
I keep telling her I’m joining Sea Shepherd when I turn 18. Mum will miss me but she’ll be OK.
In the meantime Mum extends me and gave me some editing software.
It’s kinda fun and I have my own YouTube channel – sometimes Mum films me practicing my news.
I’m a bit shy and nervous speaking up front but she tells me to try my best.
Mum shared my channel and her friends said WOW and even Mojo Mathers loved my video with the subtitles.
I’m not perfect, I don’t know everything but I’d sure love someone to notice me without me having to call out, be naughty or late.
I’d appreciate being challenged and sometimes pushed out of my comfort zone.
I don’t want school to be too difficult that I’m stressed out but I’m bored with being JUST OK.
by Mikey Lemon www.youtube.com
“No matter who you are, somebody is learning from you”
That guy knows how to inspire.
Now go spread some awesome of your own 🙂
NZ and England have Teach First. The USA has Teach For America (TFA). There are Teach For All schemes worldwide. So are the schemes any good for the trainees and, more importantly, for the students they teach?
A little background: The schemes give recruits little to no training and then put them into schools to teach. The recruits are mentored in the job and agree to stay for 2 years. They are usually put into low income area schools and they are there, according to TFA literature, to address inequality and improve the lot of poorer students.
There is a mountain of literature out there from Teach For All explaining why they believe the scheme to be a good thing. But since many are opposed to TFA, I want to consider instead, the arguments against the programmes.
There is an argument that the scheme is there only to feed cheap labour into schools. The low starting wages due to the teachers being unqualified during their 2 year initial training allows schools to reduce their costs by employing teaching staff at unqualified teacher pay scales. As a result, the scheme makes the untrained more financially attractive compared with the more expensive but trained teacher. This can be particularly attractive to schools that are run as businesses, such as charter schools.
Another issue that has been raised in the high turnover of trainees, with a much lower proportion staying in the profession than those who are trained via a traditional university course and school placements. For the Teach First proponents the high turnover is not an issue, since the scheme actively promotes itself as a stepping stone for graduates into other fields rather than a way to enter a life-long job in teaching, and gaining long-term experience and a deeper knowledge of pedagogy does not seem to be a focus. However, the high turnover and low retention of these trainees means students in the target schools (poorer districts) are more likely to have a succession of new and untrained teachers.
Former TFA recruit, Chad Sommer, highlights the issue of job security:
“A fellow TFA corps member in Chicago who worked at a charter school told me that she met with her principal each Friday to find out if she should bother coming back to work the following Monday. Another told me that his principal explicitly told him that she knew he would only be with her school for two years, so she was going to work him to death. And when he left after his TFA commitment, she would just replace him with a new TFA recruit. Churn and burn is the business model for these schools, and TFA provides a continuous supply of naively idealistic workers who have no choice but to accept their lot…
By driving down teacher salaries and weakening workplace protections, TFA has a corrosive effect on the teaching profession. But behind TFA’s role as a feeder system for charter schools is a hypocrisy that’s especially galling. Source.
Chad Sommer goes on to say:
Considering the domineering corporate influence on TFA, I would suggest that TFA has become an inverted labor union. Traditional labor unions work to promote the interests of the working people who comprise them by collectively bargaining for higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. Through its partnerships with charter schools and its mandate that corps members take the first job they’re offered, TFA is lowering wages, reducing benefits and worsening the working conditions of teachers. It is increasingly clear that the mission of the corporate class is to destroy teachers unions and remake the teaching profession into a temporary, low paying job. Source.
Not all students are happy with untrained teachers and the high turnover, and some find it patronising that poorer and mainly non-white students are deemed to need ‘rescuing’ by predominantly white, middle and upper class graduates.
That’s not to say the recruits’ intentions are not well meant, but Rachael Smith puts it very eloquently here where she condemns those that come into “the ghetto” as would-be saviours of the poor yet are “only seen for two years because we are a stepping stone.”
Interestingly, it has been incredibly tricky to find out what the students themselves think. Thier voices, online at least, are drowned out by the adult voices for and against the scheme, and maybe that in itself is rather worrying.
If you are a student who has had a TFA teacher, I would love to hear from you (both positive and negative experiences).
What do traditionally trained teachers think?
Kate Osgood caused quite a stir when she wrote her open letter to TFA recruits and followed up with further questions on the effectiveness (and motives) of TFA, noting that
“Teach for America is not about creating and supplying the teachers my students need. When an organization spends more on recruitment, PR, and lobbying than it does on training recruits, you know that the kids are not the focus.”
She concludes that:
“My students need so much more than what Teach for America can provide. The injustice of placing poorly-trained, uncertified novices in our neediest classrooms is frankly, unacceptable. “
This blogger explains why he feels TFA is the wrong route to teaching, saying he is “not here to destroy or take down TFA. I simply do not support their approach.” He believes that in ignoring the root of the issues – namely poverty – TFA and the like are just papering over the cracks and allowing the status quo to continue.
What do the TF/TFA recruits themselves think?
Some former TFA recruits have struggled with their place in the scheme of things. One notes:
“The educational and cultural imperialism that my fellow Corps Members and I were perpetrating was not lost on me nor on many of my peers. It was an inconvenient truth that we talked about over drinks and dinner when we returned to our neighborhoods at night. We maintained a belief, however, that despite our temporary teacher status and (in my case) my permanent Northern whiteness, the good that we did for our students outweighed the harm.” Source.
Another recruit, who left the scheme, says:
“I sat through a workshop at a TFA Professional Development Saturday last November designed to help solve management issues, and I was stunned by the sense of despair that permeated the room. In a group of perhaps twenty corps members, everyone was on the verge of giving up. And everyone gave the same reasons: “I stand there, and I talk, and then I yell, and then I beg, and then I threaten, and still no one has heard a word I’ve said. It’s like I’m invisible. I might as well not be there.” Source
The first batch of Kiwi TF recruits is still going through the training, and so there is no post-experience reflection out there yet, but it will be interesting to follow developments over the coming years and see whether the scheme fares any better here, on reflection, than it has elsewhere.
I would love to hear from anyone who has been through TFA in any country, so that I can better understand the pros and cons of this scheme.
As it stands, I don’t see that it’s a valid way to improve the education system and lift it to a higher, better-trained status with very knowledgeable and dedicated staff. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Sure, the politics drive me batty, so why do I carry on teaching?
I could tell you so many stories of special, amazing, beautiful children I have taught and what they have taught me.
But this video sums it up better than anything I could write.
Make sure you watch until the end, not just for the boy’s achievement, but for the reactions of the staff and his peers.
Well done, Mushy.
There is no greater pain for a teacher than not being able to help their students.
No, I lie. There is one worse pain, and that is when they are banned from helping their students.
You want to see just how far down the road of madness neoliberal educational policies can lead us? Look no further than this amazing piece by Dylan Garity.
He says it better than I ever could. Just click the pic and watch…
Poet Rachel Smith, 18, is a senior and a member of Epic Sound, the Kenwood Academy Slam Poetry Team. This is her second year participating in Louder Than a Bomb.
Hallelujah the Saviors are Here is a condemnation of teachers who come to “the inner city” without becoming a true member of the community.
You can hear it here, performed by Rachel, herself.
And for more on ‘saviour teachers’ in the USA, read here: Why Teach For America can’t recruit in my classroom.
Or if you would like something more local, this is the Kiwi version, teachers trained in 6 weeks and then sent into schools in poorer areas: Teach First NZ
Are they better for the recruit than for the students?
Or are they a good idea?
Write a haiku or other style of poem to reflect your views on education reforms in NZ or globally.
Share them below in the comments or email them to me at SOSNZmail@gmail.com
If you are feeling super creative, feel free to make a video of you performing your piece, and I will upload them.
7.7.13 STOP PRESS UPDATE: There are some great poems already entered – see them in the comments below – and don’t miss the SUPERB entry by Mr Boon.
Here are two crackers to get you started…
Hekia, so smug
You have no understanding
by Alison K
and What Teacher Make, by Taylor Mali (Badass ex Teacher)
Add your poems to the comments below…
Now go, create.
Is this what we have come to? In 2013 people worldwide are fighting to claim back a child’s right to a decent education.
Big business has taken over.
They saw dollar signs and little by little snuck in, a charter schools here, standardised testing there, rigid curricula and resource requirements forcing schools to buy only from certain companies.
And before you know it schools are about making money for corporations, not about a well-rounded and proper education for our children.
America has seen the worst, with 20 years or more of this.
If we want to stop this taking hold in New Zealand, if we want to prevent this disaster down the (short) road, then we all need to speak up now.
We want to improve out schools by making them better for our kids, not by making them into businesses for the few.
Parents – Students – Teachers – Time to start speaking up.
Corporates have taken over.
Communities have had their voice taken away.
Children’s education is seen as expendable.
Whose schools? Our Schools.
And this kind of oily reform is creeping all over the globe.
NZ are you ready? We are already seeing it in National Standards and in charter schools legislation.
Time to wake up.
Time to start asking questions.
Not worried about charters closing their doors and dumping your kids due to lack of profits?
What about charters that don’t teach your kids…
Yes, that’s right. This non-profit charter decided it could reinvent teaching and learning model and “changed the whole curriculum, brought in a model called the Big Picture where [students] had no more classes at all”…
Enjoy the story of the student with a perfect grade score of 4.0 (which is 100% in the US system), who failed her first ever class, thanks to this innovative non-teaching system….
Or the fact that they laid off the only two accredited maths teachers, so no students get any maths credits this year…
Ahhh yes, it sure does look like another great case of this innovate and miraculous system doing its stuff again…
I wonder if John Banks, Hekia Parata, Nikki Kaye or Dr Sharples would like to quote this example in Parliament at the final reading of the Education Amendment Act 2012 next week, when charters will be made legal here?
No, thought not.
This boy speaks sense. He speaks for a whole generation, and not just the kids but many teachers and parents, too.
People are more than the sum of their exam results.