As I continue to unpack the book, Closing the Attitude Gap, by Baruti Kafele I hope you took some time last week or will this week to review Chapter 1. The chapter reviews "How Climate and Culture Shape Attitude" and lays the foundation for the chapters to follow. I hope you will make this study important to your personal/professional growth, but more importantly, coming even closer together as a whole staff.
Chapter 2: Attitude Towards Students - Do I Believe in Them?
The power in this book comes from time spent reflecting. Before reading any further, please take a moment, find a mirror and answer the following questions about your students.
Do I believe in them?
Do I have a passion for teaching them?
Do I have a purpose for teaching them?
Do I treat teaching them as a mission?
Do I have a vision for what I expect of them?
Do I set incremental and long-range goals for them to achieve?
Do I plan each day thoroughly toward their success?
Do I see myself as a role model for them and always conduct myself as a professional?
Do I see myself as the number-one determinant of their success or failure?
Do I conduct daily self-reflections and self-assessments of my practice of teaching them?
Personally, it is easy to answer these questions with a quick "yes" or "sure I do" and move onto the next thing. I believe doing so is a disservice to myself. Answer these questions will take a few minutes and you must dig deep into your heart and challenge yourself when you ask these questions. Honestly, it is ok if you are not yet doing them, because the goal is to start if you are not. I would by lying if I did not answer questions with a "yes" or "sure I do" in the past. However, when I read the next three questions, my thinking change completly.
1. YOUR NAME HERE, who are you?
2. YOUR NAME HERE, what are you about?
3. YOUR NAME HERE, what is your most recent evidence?
Number three is a stumbling block. You can continue to answer with a "yes" or "sure I do" or give a detailed answer of who you are and what you are about, but it does not mean a thing if you cannot answer question number three; What is your most recent evidence? To make the answers really hit home, ask yourself those questions while looking into a mirror. Do not allow you to answer them, rather allow the person you are staring at in the mirror to provide the answers. What would that person say?
Believing in Your Students
To develop a climate and culture conducive to closing the attitude gap, it is absolutely crucial that you believe in your studetns and demonstrate your belief in them regularly (Ladson-Billings, 1994). You must believe in ALL your students, regardless of their circumstances or any "baggage" they may bring with them to school. When you look into their eyes, you must see brilliance, a reflection of yourself, and a student who is destined for greatness as a direct result of the unwavering belief you have in him/her. Our belief in students, increases the probability they will believe in themselves! If we are going to successfully close the attitude gap, we must believe in our students, but we must also ensure they believe in themselves and their own ability to achieve excellence.
Demonstrating Belief in Your Students
It is vital that your students know you believe in them. It's one thing to say you do, but it's something different and far more powerful to convince your students that yes, you really do believe in them. You must find excuses to articulate this to them. You cannot assume they know.
Do you recall these statistics:
Children being raised by college educated parents hear 6 statements of encouragement for every 1 reprimand.
Children being raised by working class parents hear 2 statements of encouragement for every 1 reprimand.
Children being raised in poverty hear 1 statement of encouragement for every 2reprimands.
A Passion for Teaching
Having passion for teaching is a game-changer. it implies you want success deeply; that you want it badly; that you will do anything for it' that you will not settle for anything less' that anything less that your absolute best is simply unacceptable. Take a look into your mirror. Is the individual looking back at you passionate about teaching? About children? About growing professionally?
Principal Kafele goes on to introduce us to a story of a young teacher who, due to no other job being available, became a teacher. He went through an alt. cert. program and the job he accepted is in a school with a demographic we are familiar with. Regardless of his background, the same questions apply.
This is not just a job - it's a mission. What he is about to embark upon will affect the life of every child he teaches. Despite the fact he has never taught a day in his life, and the school's immense challenges, he is expected to perform. The question, then, becomes, "Is he passionate about teaching?" Specifically, is he passionate about teaching children in poverty, children of color? Additionally, does he want success for his student badly? Does he truly want his children to soar? Is he willing to give them his all? Is he willing to do all he has to do in order to ensure that his students are successful? Does he have a burning desire to get the job done? Is he passionate about ensuring that high-quality instruction will occur in his classroom everyday? if so, as a new teacher, how will he make that happen?
ALL TEACHERS SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES THESE QUESTIONS.
At the end of the day, he must acquire all the pedagogical skills as a first year teacher, but over all, he must develop a passion for the work - a passion that is more than evident to his students.
A Passion for Children
Yes, you must be passionate about what you are teaching, but you must also be passionate about children. Whether it is the example teacher above or us, we teach children first, subjects second.
Are you passionate about the students you teach? Do you genuinely like children? Do you want deeply for them to be successful? Are you willing to invest in them the same level of energy and commitment you would invest in your own children? Your children require your best, your unwavering and uncompromising commitment, despite the odds and despite the challenges they are faced with daily. When they get the best "you," their chances for success increase exponentially.
A Passion for Professional Growth
For things to change I must change and we all know how quickly what we teach changes. We must evolve pedagogically. In order to do so, we must develop a passion about our own professional growth and development. We must welcome it with enthusiasm. (Wow! Welcome it with enthusiasm)
We must grow professionally, but we must seek professional development opportunities that meet individual needs of our students. Inherent in seeking help must be the passion to get it done. You must have a passion to learn as much as you can and to successfully implement that which you learn.
Principal Kafele reminds us that passion cannot be taught and does not offer suggestions for developing passion. In his work he speaks often about the will and passion to teach, but these are qualities that one must simply possess; they can be either tapped into or unleashed, but they can't be taught. These two qualities distinguish those who truly want to be in the classroom and those who do not. If you have the passion and the will to close the attitude gap of your students, that gap will be closed. You must therefore return to the mirror and ask yourself if you have the will and the passion to make it happen for your students.
With the last request I am going to end there. Chapter 2 is heavy. It asks a lot of questions and requires a lot of time in front of a mirror. Find the time to take the time and I know the results will be the relentless effort you are able to give to our students and their newly discovered success!