I don’t know how to tell my story without yelling. Without my hands raised in the air, using a calm and measured tone. I don’t feel calm and measured about the state of education in this country. I don’t feel half way about anything, but especially about injustice. Ask my mom, I’ve been screaming IT’S NOT FAIR my whole life.
I walked into the copy room this morning to find a bookshelf, full of reams of copy paper. The only problem is that we didn’t have enough shelf space. Unopened boxes wait patiently on the floor for the end of year rush to copy study guides and final exams. My first year of teaching, I got an email in October that the paper had run out. I had to supply my own. I don’t ever want to be ungrateful for those things, for the paints my students are using as we alter books this spring, for the endless supply of pencils and pens that I do not have to buy with my own money.
I don’t understand why there are schools that don’t have basic supplies. This isn’t in some far away place. I am talking about school in the same zip code as your house.
I try to talk to my colleagues about it, and they just look confused. Many of them have only ever taught here, they didn’t know that schools still existed that have such a lack of supplies.
Maybe this is why I yell. I am trying to make sure that everyone will hear me this time.
I went to a writing conference. I had meetings and met people and talked to anyone who would listen about how I wrote a book about injustice in the inner-city school. And you know what? People listened. People wanted to know about my crazy story and the ways that it can get better. I tried to be professional, not wave my hands excessively or talk for more than my elevator pitch. I tried, I did, but the tears sometimes leak out. The urgency is real.
Right now, in a school in the same city as you, there is a crop of eighth graders who are excited about the possibility of finally being high-schoolers next year. Many of these students are headed to schools with graduation rates as low as 40%. Forty percent. Congratulations, you are in high school, and you are going to have to fight like hell just to make it through your senior year. Your entire future depends on your ability, at fourteen, to consistently make good choices. The stakes are that high.
It is dire, and urgent,and if we could just change the disparity in education, we could probably stop building new prisons. We would no longer need them. I can’t tell this story without yelling, because I am sure this is a problem that is solvable. The situation is desperate, but not without hope. For every desperate school, I believe that there is a solution. I think we could give every kid a real honest to God chance at graduating High school, if we just invested in the school closest to us that needs it.
I think systemic change could happen tomorrow, or at the very latest in August. Right now, your local school is planning for next year. Right now is when they are being told how many teachers they will have and how much of their budget will be cut for next year. Right now is when the principals are trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Call them. Google “worst school in (insert your city name) and CALL THEM. Tell them you want to help and then LISTEN. The schools already know what they need, they just don’t always have the means to get it.
So that is why I yell. Why I talk so fast at parties people can’t get a word in edge wise, why I smack the person behind me on accident because I am gesticulating wildly. It is because I want to make sure I am heard. I am trying to make you care. We could change the trajectory of an entire school. If we just decided we wanted to. I’m yelling so you will hear me.