Recently I read an article that highlighted a Charter School’s approach to discipline from the eyes of an ex employer (click here for the link). Although I am sure there are charters out there who probably could be serving their scholars much better than what they are now, truth is not all charters are the core of true evil. In fact, I can vouch that some charters are truly out there to help your child succeeded, instead of teaching them how to respond on command at all times of the day.
Going on to my second year at a charter school, I can say the approach to behavior management was weird and even uncomfortable. The whole sitting properly, making sure your kids meet 100% all the time, keeping your eyes on the person speaking and so on, rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t until I was explained the reason behind it that I started to make my peace with this approach.
We don’t teach kids how to be obedient to authority “no questions asked”, we teach kids skills that apply to the real world! If someone speaks to you and you don’t “actively listen” or “look at the speaker” (words I use way too often in a day) it is a sign of disrespect. I put my students in my shoes and ask “imagine you have something super cool and important to share and I wasn’t watching you or playing with things on the rug, how would you feel?” In the real world and as adults, you would definitely flip your shit if someone wasn’t looking at you as you spoke.
This is just one of many examples of life skills taught in a classroom. Along with that comes learning time management by finishing an assignment on the time given, being held accountable when the work is not neat or complete, and working as a team to meet a class goal. This is not me policing how kids behave for my sake. This is me teaching them that in the real world, you have to provide good quality work to be successful. I did not graduate college on luck, or average work, or even on just sliding by. I did not get a job (or keep it) by not putting in effort 100% of the time. This is where the system fails us. They let kids believe half assed work is better than no work and once they get to college, the crumble on the expectations these universities give, leading to a decline of the number of minorities who finish college.
We live in a world where we have to work twice as hard to be half as good simply because of the color of our skin, social/economic class and disabilities. We are already expected to fail! Lowering my bar of 100% effort simply because my students are black, is me providing a disservice to my students and letting them know, “hey, you can provide less work and get the same treatment because you’re already less than everyone else.”
I believe in my scholars and I believe in what they can do. If I let 18 kids who receive 100% on an exit ticket join my dance party, and then decide to let my other 10 slide with just 75% passing, they will internalize the idea that they do not have to work twice as hard because below grade level work is still great work. Why would I create an environment where my scholars are treated unequally just because “he can’t do it.”
As educators we have to get out of that mindset. In the real world, if a black child does not follow the directions of a police officer, they will die. As harsh and as cold as that sounds, this is the real truth of the world we live in. Yes, question authority, speak up for yourself when something is not fair, but also understand that any action comes with a consequence and in order to play hard, we have to work twice as hard.
So what’s the problem with charter? There aren’t enough.