Philly education contains many levels. With such a diversity of peoples, Philadelphia classrooms become a microcosm of the larger U.S. When our classrooms start feeling like the “real world,” we must find a way to help our students process the tensions they feel. One ARG teacher did just that in her Center City charter school classroom.
Two students came into my room in tears. It spread through our class like wildfire. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Donald Trump” they responded. The world had entered our classroom. The alarm and distress my 2nd graders - mostly black, some immigrants, many Muslim - felt was palpable. It had been building in the months leading up to the election and, on this November 9th, it had come to a head.
We know the people: the burnt-out lawyer, the phony politician, the ego-driven banker. They live in movies and walk our streets. They are the pride and pity of the American ethos—accomplished but hollow; driven but soulless. Perhaps you are even one of them. They may have been so possessed by the desire for success that they found themselves at the apex of their career only to ask, “Why was I so motivated to try so hard in the first place?”
If you trace their steps, they may have graduated college and received straight As. They are likely to have been celebrated for their grit and risk-taking by their friends, family, and teachers. Yet, they lack the one thing our education system consistently fails to instill – passion. We are a nation of creativity, boasting the highest number of patents per capita. We are a nation of philanthropy, giving more to charity than any other nation in the world. But we are also a population plagued with depression, anxiety, and midlife crises often conflating person fulfillment with success.
I’m in my fourth year as a teacher in a low-income community. An era of high-stakes testing, charter schools, the Common Core, Teach for America, and a myriad of other initiatives pushes our nation to provide a better education for our children. The spirit of this movement, despite its controversies and headaches, is nothing short of inspiring. Our nation may be divided over what education reform should entail, but we all agree our children deserve nothing but the best.