By Jacqueline Gibbs
Over the past two Fridays, my team indulged in watching Waiting for Superman and The Boys of Baraka as a part of a weekly social justice training. Both documentaries explore the American public education system failing our nation’s children. In particular, the videos focuses on African American children whose education is at high risk due to living in cities polluted by crime, drugs and juvenile delinquency. With this in mind, I can’t help but to see a repetition of this unfortunate downfall in the very schools we work in. Considering that this is the week of establishing “focus lists” for the year, I found it relevant to draw on the correlation between the two.
Up until now, I’ve looked forward to begin working with a focus group in anticipation to form bonding relationships with students and to learn more about myself and teaching by having the responsibility of facilitating a group. I quickly realized that selecting students for my focus group was going to be tough. The sad truth is that over half of the students in each mathematical and literature class at LMSA are failing or fall below average. Six is the maximum total allowed for a focus group. The problem arises when half of the students on the roster for one class are considered off track. This leaves each individual corps member with the brutal decision of choosing which students to help this year.
A colleague of mine took a group of students to the library to work in a small group on a class assignment. She relayed to me that one of the students, who was not a part of her assigned group, came wondering into the library saying that he left the classroom because he needed her help. It tells us something when a student acknowledges that they need the help. And who can blame them, with thirty children all wrapped up in one classroom and behavioral issues on top of that, it’s impossible for one teacher to meet the individual needs of each student. The results of this only lead to the many students falling behind due to a lack of that one-on-one supervision.
Over the past week, my teacher has selected a random group of students for me to work with outside of the classroom. She has done this in hopes to form a constructive focus group for me by experimenting how particular students work in a group setting together. Reflecting back on Waiting for Superman, there is a suspenseful scene that weighs the education of a group of students in the hands of chance. Through the drawing of a raffle, a handful of children were selected to have the opportunity of pursuing a better education at a prestigious school. The image of the parents and children squirming in their seats hoping and praying for their names to be selected is still vivid in my mind. I can’t help but to think of this scene as I wait by the door to my classroom, watching the students and the glimmer of hope in their eyes as they wait in anticipation for their name to be called.
So whom do we help? Will it always be a game of chance?