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Relationships and rigor

Posted by Texas Education on March 15, 2009

Reading David Brooks piece in today’s Houston Chronicle. (Though, that link takes you to the NY times on Thursday – couldn’t seem to find it in the chon.) Don’t even usually blog on Sunday’s, usually everyone is resting up for the week, but I’m pumped, for a number of reasons…I won’t bore you with here.

When he was a boy, his mother would wake him up at 4:30 to tutor him for a few hours before he went off to school. When young Barry complained about getting up so early, his mother responded: “This is no picnic for me either, Buster.”

That experience was the perfect preparation for reforming American education because it underlines the two traits necessary for academic success: relationships and rigor.

I’ve learned, relationships are the key in education. Friday, when I subbed at the school that I taught at last year, I saw some of my former students (a couple that made me earn my $$$) come up to me, big smiles, hugs, the whole nine yards, actually making a scene. Don’t think I wasn’t eating that up!!! Boosted my self-esteem ten – fold. Even though we had difficult times (those two I referred to earlier,) sleeping, checking out stuff we shouldn’t be looking at, at school, let alone in class, etc., they still have a big smile, a hug and warm wishes for me. (Yeah, that’s what we love about teaching.) Asked if I was coming back…I wish!

We’ve spent years working on ways to restructure schools, but what matters most is the relationship between one student and one teacher. You ask a kid who has graduated from high school to list the teachers who mattered in his life, and he will reel off names. You ask a kid who dropped out, and he will not even understand the question. Relationships like that are beyond his experience.

This is what really caught me. How true a statement. So, those two young men who I saw in the hall, got a hug from – one even introduced me to his girlfriend – the other came back from California (was worried about him being in gangs when I heard he was going out there) are, still in school, and apparently, doing better than last year. I would have loved to have still been there to watch my students continue to grow, succeed and excel.

Of course, Brooks goes on to talk about the other side, the rigor.

As Education Secretary Arne Duncan told me, “We’ve seen a race to the bottom. States are lying to children. They are lying to parents. They’re ignoring failure, and that’s unacceptable. We have to be fierce.”

Obama’s goal is to make sure results have consequences. He praises data sets that “tell us which students had which teachers so we can assess what’s working and what’s not.” He also aims to reward states that use data to make decisions. He will build on a Bush program that gives states money for merit pay so long as they measure teachers based on real results. He will reward states that expand charter schools, which are drivers of innovation, so long as they use data to figure out which charters are working.

Brooks sums it up well, “There’s reason to think that this week’s impressive speech will be followed by real and potentially historic action.”

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One Response to “Relationships and rigor”

  1. […] Relationships and rigor « Texas Education […]

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