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Follow-Up: Social Change Starts in Classrooms

Megan M. Allen

Teachers feel so passionately about educating each and every child. But those that work with high-poverty students? It's more for us. It is a passion, a way of life that can usurp every waking second (and then creep into our dreams as well). We work in it. Live it. Strive to conquer poverty as partners and guides beside our students. We focus on that glimmer of hope inside each one of our students, seeing the potential in each set of eager eyes in our schools. We know this social change can happen. It starts in our classrooms, one student at a time.

But I'm not naïve enough to think we can do it alone. We need some help. And here's what I'm thinking:

  1. We need money. Jessica Hahn focused on this with her follow-up, and she is right. But throwing money at a problem doesn't fix it. The money must be allocated towards items that will truly impact students. And there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but this will look different in every community.
  2. We need the help of stakeholders. Both Linda Yaron and Silvestre Arcos echoed this same sentiment. We need organizations and agencies at our schools, partnering with us on our mission. Which brings me to point three...
  3. We need to focus on the social issues plaguing our students. But try as we might, we can't always do that by ourselves. A colleague recently introduced me to the research of Pedro Noguera, an NYU professor and authority on urban schools. He offers the idea that until we shift our mindsets and put social reforms in place in our high-poverty schools, education reform will not be as impactful. We must tackle the obstacles our children face outside the classroom as we are tackling learning inside the classroom. Think Harlem Children's Zone. It's working. Now let's get about the business of replicating it.
  4. We need visionary leadership. Leadership willing to think outside the box, take healthy challenges, and support students and staff. Leaders ready to impact not just a school, but a community. See my want ad for an amazing school leader.
  5. We need room to breathe. No scripts. Innovation. Collaboration. The ability to develop unique and creative lessons for our students based on their learning needs, the needs of the community, and their interests.

Thinking about education transformation in our low-income schools has got me all fired up about changing the lives of my students—our students. I know we can do it. One community at a time. One school at a time. One child at at time. Want to join me?

Megan M. Allen is a National Board-certified teacher in Tampa, Fla., where she serves as a teacherpreneur and teaches 5th graders.

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