I can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday – the poster on the bulletin board of my Grade 13 Physics class.
It was a joke, of course. My physics teacher had – still has – a great sense of humour.
But it makes me ask myself if the students who enter our school each day have just that – hope.
Yesterday was hard. My vice-principal and I mentioned many times that we felt more like social workers than educators. Twice I found that I could not hold back tears. Life is really tough for some of my students.
This evening I have been reading from Comparative Education: Exploring Issues in International Context (Second Edition): by Patricia K. Kubow and Paul R. Fossum Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2007 – Chapter 4, on Educational Access and Opportunity.
In comparing education in Brazil and South Africa, the consequences of poverty are discussed at length. This quote is one that many of us in education need to remember: “Poverty disrupts access to education in numerous ways, often affecting the degree to which school is valued or even perceived as viable among a society’s poor”(p. 134).
I had not considered how poverty might affect the number and range of opportunities for students to practice and apply what they learn in school. In addition, the number of personal demands on a student’s time competes directly with their need to be in a formal education setting. When basic resources are lacking, there is less time for the pursuit of education.
The culture may not include the assumption that formal education is the key to success.
There are well-defined links between poor health and poverty, and this contributes to the readiness for learning as well as poor attendance in school, which can lead to gaps in knowledge.
We do our best to meet the physical and emotional needs of our students, with breakfast program, emergency food, and access to counseling.
But the real question for me as the principal is, when students walk into the school, is it a place of hope?
Note: Here is an interesting read on the finding that disadvantaged students do significantly better in school if they are involved in an intense arts program: http://www.miller-mccune.com/education/arts-involvement-narrows-student-achievement-gap-40745/