Stuart Buck recounts a conversation with a friend, a black man teaching high school English at a mostly black school in Georgia, about the challenge of teaching students who’ve made it to 10th grade without learning how to read. The friend says:
“It’s just impossible for me to spend one or two semesters and get someone caught up on 9 or 10 years of schooling. And then there are always some kids that just don’t care, and no matter what I try, they just won’t do the work. So the government is going to tell me that because of a handful of students that are unreachable, therefore I’m a bad teacher? No way.”
The teacher also talks about confronting a boy, who says, “You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my dad.”
“Then I said, ‘No, I am your dad. I’m the only grown male who is willing to stand out here, before God and before anyone else who is listening, and to tell you that I love you and that I’m here for you. Now you tell me, if that’s not a dad, then what is?’
“That’s when the kid just started sobbing.”
The boy’s behavior improved. But he’s still going to flunk the class. He hasn’t done most of the work and has no chance of passing the test.
Update: On Right Wing Nation, the prof writes about trying to teach a bright, hard-working student who’d made it to college without understanding how to compute a mean or median or how to abstract an idea from an example. The professor wonders why nobody taught him math in high school.