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Journal of No. 118


August 5th, 2007

Hobart Shakespeareans @ 08:21 pm

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Recently saw the Hobart Shakespeareans, a documentary about Rafe Esquith's 5th grade class at Hobart Elementary in LAUSD, the second largest elementary school in the country. He gets his kids to sign up for mental bootcamp, getting learning in from the buttcrack of dawn to long afterschool and through the holidays. Part of the program is to present one of Shakespeare's plays. Okay, by the end of the year, they are not quite ready for the RSC (though they're good enough to 'open' for them), but the beneficial and transformative effect on the kids is palpable.
It's inspiring and a feel-good story, but in the back of my mind, I can't help think that in the classroom right next door to his, it's business as usual. If Rafe gets run over by a truck, it all comes to an end. Rafe has inspired his kids, and no doubt many educators, but there's really no way to clone millions of Rafes to teach our kids. Jaime Escalante was much the same - he left Garfield High and "In the space of just a few years, Garfield experienced a sevenfold drop in the number of A.P. calculus students passing their exams. In 1996, Angelo Villavicencio contacted Garfield’s new principal, Tony Garcia, and offered to come back to help revive the dying calculus program. His offer was politely rejected."
Escalante's own school was unable to keep up his tradition without him. I'm afraid Rafe's legacy will be the same. Fortunately for us, he's still there doing what he does. I'm sure he couldn't not do what he does.
The trick is to create more Jaimes and Rafes. I expect it would require cattle-prods and direct electrical stimulation of the pleasure centers of the brain.


*rubs chin and considers applying for grant*
 
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From:rsheslin
Date:August 6th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)

cultural and systems change

(Link)
It's a drop in the bucket, but the elementary school where I work has a new principal this year. On top of the "Positive Action" curriculum that we've been helping the district implement the past couple of years (trying to reinforce personal responsibility and accountability), our individual school has just implemented a school pledge:

Today has been given to me fresh and new.
I can learn from it or throw it away.
I choose to do my best in thoughts, words and actions.
This day will be used and not lost.


Even though your example focuses on academic achievement, I think that this sort of foundational culture is necessary in order to get kids to like school and, by extension, learning. It won't save the world single-handedly (I agree with the necessity of cattle-prods and pleasure stim), but it's nice to be part of something that's at least moving in the right direction.
From:aaronjv
Date:August 9th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)
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Based on my limited tutoring experience, I realize that the main thing these kids never get is discipline. There's no connection between "What I do in school" and "How I will get through life."

And really, there ISN'T that kind of connection. Stupid people rule (e.g., the President of the United States), so why do anything well? Why learn? Just accept that God did it all, and you'll never understand HIS WORKS, so you just need to pray for salvation.

That being said, I think I'd make a good teacher. Maybe someday, when I know something.

Journal of No. 118