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Teachers Speak (Part 1)
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August 30, 2012
When discussions on education reform are held and decisions are made, teachers’ input is not always sought. Administrators and politicians views are heard more often than those of classroom teachers. This summer, WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn interviewed several Baltimore teachers to hear their thoughts on matters ranging from the challenges they face in the classroom to the city’s drop-out rate. Last year, more than 1,100 students dropped out of city schools. We begin part one of our two-part Teachers Speak series with Bradley Nornhold, a seventh and eighth grade math teacher at Kipp Ujima Village Academy.
Bradley Nornhold: So what do I see as the most important reason local students are dropping out of school? I think in some ways they have lost hope, they’ve lost that idea that there is a connection between working hard and what I’m doing now in school to what could await me in the future. It’s that tie in to me working hard now, affects my future and I do think that’s on teachers, that’s on schools that we have to make sure they see the connection.
Keith Featsent: My name is Keith Featsent and I teach 6th, 7th and 8th grade social studies at the Middle Alternative Program at Lombard in Baltimore City, Maryland.
The single most important reason local students drop out of school I believe is a lot of them are not functioning at their age appropriate level. So a 16 year old that failed 7th grade three times, oftentimes will get bullied, will be called stupid. They’re going to wake up thinking more ridicule, more bullying, more pressure, what’s the easiest thing for me to do, just drop out.
Euszell Gantuangco: My name is Ms. Gantuangco. I teach at Achievement Academy at Harbor City High School. I teach English 2, tenth grade.
I think one important reason why they drop out of school is their basic needs are not being met. First and foremost some are homeless and they have other issues like who takes care of their children, they need a job more than they need to go to school because they don’t have money to feed their families.
What can a teacher do to help students not drop out of school? One thing is to just monitor their attendance. That is what we’ve been doing here in this school. Every 15 days we send attendance letters and we have parents’ conferences and if necessary, we do home visits and ask them what’s wrong, why are they not in school.
Lena Woods: My name is Lena Woods and I’m a kindergarten teacher at Southwest Baltimore Charter School in Baltimore City.
What assistance do I need from the community? Having community faces in the school, as well as having the support of the business side. Not just let’s donate things, but here we are, here’s our faces. This is what we want to teach you about what we do. Why don’t come to our place of work and see for yourself what we do and just be open to really see that the community is there to support them as well as what options are there, Ok if I graduate, I can do this.
I feel like a lot of schools are cutting funding in so many places. The first things let go are those pieces that might hold that only student that I’m only here to go to a fitness and adventure class. When you cut that fitness and adventure class, that student you’ve just lost from graduating.
Baltimore city teachers, in their own words, on the district’s drop-out problem. They were interviewed this summer by WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn as part of the Teacher Wall series, a nationwide, collaborative project between the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Center for Media Engagement. Tomorrow, in part two of this series, we’ll hear from teachers on classroom challenges, as well as their advice for new teachers. You can reach the WYPR Newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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