Sunday, May 17, 2009

If I were in charge of Education

Lots of commentary in the last weeks about how to improve education for poor kids.  See: 11D, and David Brooks, and Half Changed World

I've got a simple, sure-fire solution to raising the test scores of poor children.

Here's my plan:
Everyone who has more than they need can join a mentoring program, get matched to a child who doesn't have enough.  You simply promise that child that you will do everything in your power to make sure he or she has clothing and food.

That's it, really.  clothing and food.

You see, once the shelter, clothing and food needs are met - amazing things can happen. (Ideally, you'd be able to promise the shelter too, but let's not bite off more than we can chew right away. clothing and food, and books, maybe.  I should add books.)

OK, so maybe it is more than that.  You see, once you experience the sheer magic of helping a child succeed when they face every single conceivable obstacle in life....something happens to you.  You start to care. 

So, now a child has food, clothing, books (possibly shelter) AND an adult who cares.  Voila - higher test scores.

I've had a rough couple of weeks with my current match situation. Unbloggable stuff. Stuff that has me reaching out to social workers and other professionals.  Stuff that has me curl up in the fetal position on my living room rug when I'm all alone and no one can see me crying.

One possible solution for the current "stuff" is to find other matches for some of the other younger kids in the family.  Right now, I'm the only match and there are 5 kids. The 8-year-old boy has been on the waiting list for two years.  TWO YEARS. TWO YEARS.  

It kinda breaks my heart. Turns out there are almost 300 kids on that waiting list.  Mostly boys.  Most have been on for years. This mentoring stuff works, (really, it works.) 

But no one wants to do it. 

The one silver lining:  I was on the phone with a local respite center talking about (unbloggable stuff) and reading about all the things they need on their website. My daughter, who absorbs way more than I think she does, gathered up every penny she has ever saved, and carried it out to me. She wanted me to give it to the respite center.  We are headed over there this week.  Just when I think I am doing just about everything possibly wrong that I can as a mother, she goes and does something like that to prove me wrong. 

I guess.  

Part of me wants to shield my own 9 year old from the ugly parts of  the life of my 10 year old match. I try the best I can. But let's be honest: I can't. We've opened our home and our life to this other child and I can't pretend that her life is just like ours. It isn't.

But her test scores?  Up.  Way up.  So we plug on...two steps forward, one step back.



Bridgett said...

You seem in this pretty deep--I remember being there as a teacher a couple of times. It seems so simple and then the school district and the government want to make things so complicated (and think that the answers are in a new reading series, bought very expensively, of course)...

tammyps said...

It doesn't have to be enormously complicated. You just help. My almost 9 year old announced what was for her thrilling news yesterday: She already reached the amount of savings I'd I would double by year-end. She donates to CARE, Oxfam, etc. She told me she didn't see much point in spending any of her allowance or other money given (for good grades--my husband's side of the family does that...). Because, as she said "I already have so much. This will mean a lot more to someone poor." So she is past 100 euros now--what is that these days--180 $? And at year's end, she will select gifts from using our pooled money. This is the 3rd year she is doing this. She gets truly excited to be doing something positive! And there is a boy her age in Holland whose grandfather told him what Sophie does, and now this person she doesn't even know is also doing this. Mothers, there is hope, we just keep on keepin' on. They will make us proud in ways we have yet to imagine.