Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Whole School Left Behind

Well, I have failed miserably in my mission to make Mississippi read. This article and video from The Washington Post features the Como Elementary School. I live at the end of Main Street in Como, and the school is exactly one block north of my house. I was the Town's Librarian for nine years before moving to my current position at the college. I wanna cry, but it ain't gonna help.

22 comments:

Sam Sattler said...

I feel like crying right along with you...but this weird little quote can't really be true can it?

"One (teacher) resigned after just a few weeks when he was found hiding from the third-graders in his class who were throwing papers at him."

Erica said...

you haven't failed maggie--it's not your fault. what a mess. those poor kids!

jmnlman said...

That sucks but remember you can't save them all they have to want to be.

Lori Thornton said...

Maggie,
It's not your fault. It takes more than one person to make children want to read. It needs to be modeled in the home. Schoolteachers need to find exciting books that will make kids want to read. It takes money to build a library (whether a public library or a school library) and all too often books are not what is being purchased with the money nowadays. Databases are eating up library budgets! Funding for libraries is not a priority with government. They figure that Americans will buy their own books. The problem is that in places like Como, Mississippi, families don't have the extra money to spend on purchasing their own books. The library needs to be "rediscovered." We need money to spend on inviting books that will make kids want to read!

maggie moran said...

Sam - Not to dis the reporter, but didn't the article have a rumor feel. Third graders are pussycats; agreeably, it is unbelievable. We assume the teacher resigned because he/she couldn't handle the kids, but maybe he/she got a better job offer. Show me the proof!

Thanks Erica, but I know I'm part of that bottom equation for these kids. Were you there the day I told about Jason in Joan's class? My peppy 10-yr-old patron who ended up in Parchment. I'm not making a difference, damnit.

maggie moran said...

Jmnlman - I do think they need motivation. It's too easy to slide by, but at their age they should be getting good grades or at least medium grades. They haven't succumb to peer pressure yet and they still should have a desire to please others. It does suck...

maggie moran said...

Thanks Lori for the discussion. I've been successful in getting more than $20,000 in grants for our public and school libraries. Mostly, for adult reading discussion programs, but also 5 Libra grants and a Laura Bush grant which equals brand new books. We have the resources here, we have the voluteers (Barksdale Grant requires volunteers), we just do not have the academic atmosphere. I keep thinking, the older kids pick on the smart ones and subdue their natural curiosity, but not in these lower grades.

maggie moran said...

Lori - You are so right about modeling the reading habit! In the Bush grant I used that as one of my basis for turning kids into readers. I actually wanted the principal to be seen every morning reading a newspaper. Dream on, right?!?

Diane said...

what a heartbreaking story . . . but not without hope . . .

Anonymous said...

Maggie darlin' keep your chin up.You aren't the one who failed !

sage said...

The article seemed to be also an indicitment of the NCLB legislation... Keep it up, you can't make changes over night. The teacher hiding for third graders throwing papers is both funny and sad. As for going to the local college, helping adults read will probably have a greater impact in children reading than working with children. Keep up the work, it takes time to see results and often results are only seen after the "teacher" is no longer around.

Isabel said...

Do what you can, which is what you are doing.

I wish that the children had parents to really take care of them. It's sad that so many poorer children are being raised by grandparents or great-grandparents.

jenclair said...

Always comes as a shock when I see or hear about these situations which are more common than we like to think about. I heard a program on NPR the other day that listed some of the variations of standards between states for No Child Left Behind. The differences made the entire program look foolish. Third graders in one state had to determine whether cats or dogs were better at climbing trees while those in another state had to read a passage from Tolstoy and answer comprehension questions. Huh?

I wish I knew the answers (and could make some suggestions)because many of our schools are in similar shape. Sad and scary.

Nan said...

And this is America? It isn't you who have failed. How can a child even think about reading when he comes to school in wet clothes? And a teacher hiding from third graders?? The schools can only do so much. It is the social fabric that is torn, and I fear without hope of mending in some cases. I wish every Presidential candidate would read that article, and then all appear on a stage together and address this issue, and just this issue. It breaks my heart.

Nyssaneala said...

You are doing the best that you can, Maggie--you can't do more than that!

The whole American education system is in shambles, and finding qualified teachers for low-income schools (and providing said teachers with adequate benefits and salaries so they afford to stay at such schools) is one of the biggest problems.

That, and the low adult literacy rates (and number of adults without a GED) that can exist in some communities makes it hard to pass on the love of learning to many of these kids.

Tiffany Norris said...

I agree with Sage that the article really seemed to target the legislation. However, our Southern states, especially, are in some desperate situations. So many things are needed for improvement.

However, Maggie, your mission is still going strong...not failing and not over!! You are doing great work, but you might not see the results of it immediately! I just wanted to say keep it up--you're an inspiration!

maggie moran said...

Thanks Diane! I was beginning to think not, but I love that so many of you care.

Thanks Paul! I do feel I haven't done enough. I didn't know things were that bad in their school. I need to work more with the librarian there,huh?

Thanks Sage! I think you are right about the article. It had an agenda. Your last sentence is so true. My 2nd grade teacher made an extremely, strong impact on my life which I didn't recognize or thank her for until I was thirty.

Thanks WW100! Don't forget the aunties, too!

As Sage was saying, keep pushing the adults and it is bound to trickle down. A reporter for The Commercial Appeal asked me yesterday if the situation was really as dire as the WP reporter made it out to be. The CA reporter is a black man born and raised in Como who I asked to speak with the library children in 1999. I told him I thought it was getting better. I had at least 50 Como girls enrolled, going to classes, making good grades, this semester. That's sounds positive, right?

maggie moran said...

Maybe the Como kids got the Tolstoy questions?!? That would be so unfair Jenclair, but really sad if they couldn't figure out a cat climbs a tree, too.

The problem is a combination of things and I'm not sure we can improve them all, but in the end the worst of it has to be ignorance.

maggie moran said...

Thanks Nan! I think that is a grand idea! Let's hear their stance on poverty, race, and education. My walking buddies boiled it down to the dependence on welfare. Too easy of an answer, but I would like to see those who can work weaned from the system. I'm not trying to be harsh, my grandmother took government cheese, just sensible.

Thanks Nyssaneala! This ranking used to belong to Tunica, MS. A small farming community 30 miles to our northwest. When they were granted the honor of riverboat casinos their children's grades improved. More money was thrown their way plus better educated students moved to the area with their casino serving parents. After the first year of operation they had enough money to build a new public library and back a $30,000 book budget.

maggie moran said...

Thanks Tiffany! There's just no way to fix this problem other than keep pushing.

My article on books today sucked! I couldn't concentrate after someone leaked the Washington Post article to all the faculty and staff through e-mail. People are talkin' and in my case I think the WP article can be used to prove need for more grants. So, I shouldn't be so negative about this.

I should probably use this article to light my fire, too; instead of digging the hole of depression. Write more about the importance of reading to our kids can be one of my goals. Thanks Tiff!

Nan said...

Maggie, I wonder if there is any kind of fund that people could contribute to in an attempt to help this situation? If not, might someone start one? Please do keep us posted on the situation. I can't get this town and its children out of my head and heart.

maggie moran said...

Nan, that's awfully kind to you, but I think we need to be the ones to change our surroundings. There are more factors than poverty, because some of these kids live in middle class homes. They get breakfast and lunch at the school; plus, lunches during the summer so there goes the nutrition cause. I used to base my summer reading programs to start after they had eaten and had a chance to walk to the library. Barksdale grant is active and using volunteers from the community to come in and read. I've gotten 3 grants for their elementary library: two Libra and one Bush. I've seen the books and they are fresh, up-to-date, fun reads. I believe the problem is internal and social. Since moving to Como in '95, the elementary school has had four different principals. Most teachers see Como as a starter school. So fresh young college kids teach there until they can get a better job. You can see stability is an issue. Also, the parents aren't giving their children enough encouragement. When a child misbehaves, a parent ~ usually work-worn mother or put-upon autie or granny ~ come to the school to bawl-out the teacher instead of working with them to correct the problem. Also, the kids get "too" smart and their peers will tease them mercilessly about being white. Go figure!?!

I thank you for your concern and I wish there was a way you could help by being a volunteer. Please spend your money or time locally. We need to work on this as a community and money pouring in would only make men greedy.

Another article appeared in the Commercial Appeal this morning written by Como native Otis Sanford. This will stir the pot some more and I was thinking about doing the same this week. I think making people aware is one of the biggest hurdles in our request for change.