Still The Same: Social Services Support

I’m currently reading Alex Kotlowitz’s nationally acclaimed book, There Are No Children Here, a book that displays the harsh affects that poverty has on children who live through it, day in and day out. Kotlowitz starts off by focusing on the violent and burdensome social lives of Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers but then dovetails into very important aspects of the poverty story that has often been said to not be affected by poverty: the school and education of the impoverished child.

Kotlowitz, before describing and connecting the affect that poverty has on Lafayette and Pharoah’s education, gives a general summary of what little resources the principal and teachers have to work with.

“Also, Suder [one of the local schools serving the few thousand kids growing up in the crime infested Horner projects] must share a nurse and psychologist with three other schools and a social worker with four other schools.”

Not only do the children live in poverty, but the schools themselves operate and function in poverty.

But this sentence resonated with me for another reason. My high school severed students from three large project developments. Even though these projects were similar, though less dangerous than Horner, it was obvious that a large number of my fellow classmates were behaviorally troubled because of their environment. What’s more is that my high school in 2010 shared a social worker with three other high schools, like Horner in 1987. Nearly a quarter of a century later and we still can’t admit that not acknowledging poverty as a real detriment to students academic and social success has much to do with why children who live through it can’t break the cycle.

I admire this book, because like How Children Succeed, it acknowledges that education needs more than “better” teachers. The problem is far more complicated than that.

Mini-Documentaries More Beneficial in Schools Than Lengthy Films

Short, precise and well thought out documentaries can be more useful and efficient alternatives to time sucking films, according to the NYT‘s “Film Club”, which produces 8-12 minute long mini-documentaries that are aimed at adding onto how students take in and reflect on various subjects.  I love the article’s emphasis on critical thinking skills. Each mini-documentary comes with supplement materials that help facilitate a conversation about topics such as the documentary’s purpose and individual student’s personal reflection and reaction to a documentary. But, what I think is more important is the encouragement for students to write down quotes or note parts that stood out to them. I think this is a great opportunity to allow students to pay attention and find what appeals to them (or what doesn’t) and then try to articulate (either orally or writing) why they feel the way they do. Rather than watching an hour long film, students can spend the class period watching a ten minue mini-documentary, five minutes on individual reflection, then break out into mini groups discussing their thoughts and answering questions tailored to provoking critical thinking skills. The teacher would pop-in on each group’s session, taking note of each students oral articulation skills and provide feedback to the student on a one-on-one basis at some point before week’s end.