Recently, while traveling, I was watching a local news program. A particular story grabbed my attention. It was a story about kids in that community leaving the local school district and heading to charter schools. There was an excellent interview with a student and her mother. The student was very articulate in stating she was finally in an environment where she was learning. Then they interviewed an official from the service center. And, as I listened to him speak, I got more and more upset. He started reciting the same tired rhetoric that we often hear. His statements clearly indicated that he wasn’t a fan of charters. It was obvious that he was just going to take the safe traditional stance and warn people about charter schools. Remind everybody that there are bad charter schools. Cautiously warn parents that charter schools are just not up to par with traditional public schools. And, as I listened, one question kept running through my head: “Is anybody listening to the child?”
This young girl had just stated that she was FINALLY learning. She apparently had found a place that cared about her. Now (and go with me on this thought for a minute) if that girl had been talking about an established district, the story would have been a congratulatory, positive one about how well the school, and education in general, was doing for students. However, because the girl was talking about a charter school, the story was more of a cautionary warning for parents. “Your child may finally be doing great but…” “Yes, the child is learning but…” “Don’t get too excited about this child’s success. Remember, it’s still just a charter school”.
I believe in education and educators. There have been times that some even in charter schools would rather I be more direct in preferring charter school education over traditional public. The fact is, in the end, it’s the kid that matters.
If the traditional school meets the child’s needs, then so be it. The child needs that school. However, anyone who truly looks at education has to admit that students are still falling behind and dropping out. Obviously, not every child can possibly have their needs met in just the traditional school. The charter school can take the risks to do something about it. So, if it takes the charter school to reach that kid, then so be it. I’ve watched some people show more passion about charter schools being bad than they’ve ever shown about the crisis of kids falling behind or dropping out. This is not about charter. This is not about school districts. This is about you and me wanting to help kids because there is coming a day, sooner than either of us like to think, when you and I will be gone. And, they will still be here. And the only thing that matters is whether we left them better off because of what we did while we had the opportunity. So, honestly, get off the charter school rant. And me, I’ll get off my rants.
The fact is, we have to be aggressive and passionate about the kid. Any educator, or anyone for that matter, who tells you they are right 100% of the time has just proven himself wrong. I believe that if all educators would stop talking and start listening, they would see that all of us are needed. This is not a time for us to talk but to listen. I challenge all of us to find a student and just take the time to listen. Any time spent doing that is good and sacred.
Lately, when I hear the old song and dance from people warning me about charter schools, I find I’m just ignoring it. And, I’m not apologizing. So, they can go on talking about the dangers of charter schools. Pardon me if I’m too busy listening to the kids to hear what they’re saying.