Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Looking Beyond Ourselves: Supporting Struggling Schools

This article in the NY Times highlights the challenge that teachers have to offer the best support to their students in challenging, high-pressure environments that struggling schools often become.  As a former teacher myself, I can attest to the challenges that are present in struggling schools for any teacher, and particularly for young, inexperienced teachers, even those with the best of intentions.  And I'd be remiss if I said that it is only inner-city schools that are struggling (although struggling schools are often concentrated in inner-city school districts with less financial resources and a greater number of students to work with).  Rural schools, city "fringe" schools (sometimes known as the "second city" suburbs), and schools with highly transient, changing populations also struggle to meet students' needs and achieve state standards. 

I often am tempted to be discouraged when it comes to all the needs and reform required to make education better for all students, especially those who need it the most.  The inequality is almost too great to know how to handle.  Yet if we are overwhelmed and do nothing, I know we are ignoring the needs of our sisters and brothers who attend schools that need support and resources so badly.  So I propose a few small ways that we (including myself!) can support struggling schools in our communities:

Ways you can give/help:
- Volunteer at a local inner-city or rural school, or contact your local Boys and Girls Club to find after-school programs that would welcome volunteers.
- Find a classroom near you to "adopt" with Adopt-A-Classroom
- If you're really creative, design a project and funding for a needy classroom with The Generation Project
- If you live in or near the D.C. area, consider donating gently used books, CDs, DVDs, and electronics to Books for America, an organization that donates these books to children in homeless shelters, schools, and community clinics in the D.C. area.
- Find ways to advocate for more equal funding and support for all students in your area.  Get in contact with a local education advocacy or policy group in your area, or write or talk to your local representatives to find out initiatives and policies taking place in local school districts and cities.

I am challenging myself, along with you, to consider how your support and advocacy can help to support children you often have big dreams but less resources to realize those dreams because of financial circumstances, struggling schools, or little administrative support.

“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” 
Mother Teresa  

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