“Statistics are not destiny.” -Dr. Doug Imig
Today, we explored some cold hard facts about the state of education and the achievement gap right here in Memphis. Learning that only 4% of Memphis children growing up in poverty and attending Memphis City Schools graduate college ready made me sad and then angry. This is one of the reasons I Teach For America. I cannot unlearn those statistics. And once I know them, I also can’t choose not to act upon them. I’m certainly not saying I’m the magic answer or even that TFA as an organization will solve all ills, but if we can partner with this community and try to grow and learn together, why not? I don’t know the statistics for my situation, but I can’t imagine that statistically a youngest child of seven born out of wedlock would have a high chance of graduating from a four year institution with a bachelor’s degree. However, as the baby of a family which loves and supports me so much and as someone lucky enough to have teachers who cared, I did have that opportunity. Statistics, shmatistics. In order to fight this fight, we must not get complacent in the idea that our kids are beyond hope. After speaking with community members today, it appears that the prevailing ideology of parents not caring and students being unwilling to learn is sadly prevalent. Through respectful and humble community engagement, I hope we can break some of the self-fulfilling prophecies. These kids are not just numbers, they are people. No one gave up on me, so I have no plans of giving up on them.
Okay, stepping down from the soapbox that I haven’t even earned yet since I’m not quite in the classroom , but those are my initial thoughts and reactions. I’m really thankful for today, because it seems like each time I write about something, it becomes true the next day. In terms of the community I spoke of yesterday, I felt it the strongest so far in our interactions today. We got to talk to students of Soulsville Charter School, who were extremely polite and welcoming. Interacting with real students made me both excited and nervous. How do you speak to a teenager after all?? I’m so thankful that the students were willing to share with us what they look for in good teachers. The resounding answer was teachers who push them. Hearing from the students themselves that they crave high expectations makes me feel even more confident in the TFA principle of requiring the highest standards from all students.