What a Difference 9 Miles Makes…

I understand poverty is everywhere. I experienced poverty growing up as a child. I experienced poverty in my classrooms while teaching. I experienced poverty in my schools as a Principal. I understand the statistics; low income students now make up the majority of American Schools http://bit.ly/15dLprh .(SEF, 2013)

As an advocate for Rural Education (Rural Poverty Rate is the Highest of all Demographic Categories http://1.usa.gov/1ZemMkQ USDA 2015)

I have spent the last several years promoting excellence for All students in All Zip Codes. I know this is a constant battle, and it is one I plan on passionately fighting. WE as parents, students, communities, and educators must demand changes resulting in excellence for all of our children.

My eyes were opened to the extent of the poverty battle we are facing in our schools and communities. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with students in “School A” the past several months. I have interacted with 7 & 8 year olds, done model lessons for their teachers, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent with these children. These students were curious, inquisitive, and very responsive to higher order questioning techniques. (Keep in mind I was told all of these students were “slow” and “behind their grade level.”) I brought books from home I knew my seven- year-old son loved and the students seemed to engulf them.

I brought my own books because I noticed…there were very few anywhere in “School A;” it was a virtual Ghost Town when it came to books. The school library had been closed two years due to budget cuts, and teachers’ classroom libraries were small if they existed. (We’re talking 10 books!) I asked one of the teachers what their students’ used for reading and he showed me black and white copies of books…YES…black and white photocopied pages, wrinkled and stapled together were the primary sources of reading FOR PLEASURE for these students. Recent research has shown reading for pleasure results in “Improvements in young children’s communication abilities and longer-term education outcomes…” http://bit.ly/1TQCSmf (The Reading Agency, June 2015)

Yet “School A” was expecting students to be stimulated by wrinkled and torn black & white copies of books they made from the school’s copy machine?

Thankfully I had a great dinner with some members of my PLN one evening while there. I was able to discuss my concern for these children. From this dinner I can tell you this: 1) We didn’t save the world 2) We did eat a good Chicken Kebob and most importantly 3) Lisa Davis came up with a BRILLIANT idea to change the culture in the classrooms of “School A.”

Lisa Davis is on the far left

Lisa Davis is on the far left

As an active member of the PTA of “School B” located just 9 miles away from “School A” Lisa Davis offered to save some books from their annual book drive and allow me to donate them to the first and second grade classes of “School A.” WOW! How generous of “School B” and Lisa!

I visited “School B” and it was like I was in a totally different World. Instead of being greeted by five armed security guards at the elementary school as I was every morning at “School A” the secretary welcomed me in. I looked around and saw a beautiful facility that was clean, fully stocked with technology, alternative seating, full of engaged students, and books…AND THIS WAS A MERE 9 MILES AWAY from “School A.”

I gladly took the books that Lisa gathered for the children of “School A.”

There were tears when I brought them into the classrooms. One of the most moving comments came from the young boy in the picture below…he said “Ms. Daisy, I’ve never read from a REAL book.” So right then we sat down and he read a book to me with confidence and pride, then he asked me to take this “Selfie” with him.

"I've never read a REAL book before."

“I’ve never read a REAL book before.”

These things can’t happen, these schools are 9 miles apart. This isn’t EQUITY! It’s injustice! #bethechange

(Oh…FYI…the teachers pay is virtually the same.)

2 Responses to What a Difference 9 Miles Makes…

  1. There has to be a way to change this sort of situation. Every poor school has a story; a different story, but with some similarities. We always say that we have to start with a belief system that “All students can learn.” But we also need to empower teachers as well as leaders to search for ideas and creative solutions to make the situations better.

    Thank you for sharing this touching story with us.

  2. Nancē Contreras said:

    This is happening in America, the greatest country on Earth? No child, anywhere, should be deprived of holding a “real book” in his/her hands- ever. How can I help?

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