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Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Matter of Beliefs

Charlie was never a stellar student, so I'm not kidding myself even as I get angry. I know he didn't always do his work, and I know that he would smile and nod in acquiescence and then walk about and do nothing.

To his teachers he was lazy, not motivated, and "if only…"

His early teen years weren't good ones -- school hadn't been a strong suit, and he was having too  much fun with kids who were at the edge of school. Then came the night his mom rushed his dad to the hospital. A few days later after the swelling of his dad's brain had returned closer to normal, his dad underwent the knife. For most of that week  Charlie's days were spent in the hospital, waiting for the diagnosis.

Brain cancer.

Life expectancy -- not known but not good.

And when he returned to school, his science teacher said no to turning his work in late.

You've got to be more responsible, she told him.

Lazy is what she believed.

He needs to learn a lesson about responsibility, she believed.

And then there's Marie.

Her mom was Japanese-American, her dad Mexican-American. Through her first few years of school, she carried her dad's last name. After her parent's divorce, she carried her mom's last name. While Mexican-American, her teachers  shook their heads in dismay at her struggles with math, but when she became Japanese-American, her teacher insisted that she visit him after school for tutoring.

Your people are good at math, and we must catch you up, he told her.

Asians are great at math but those from the southern hemisphere aren't, he believed.

Beliefs that teachers hold serve as roadmaps, as beacons of light, guiding a teacher's interpretation of events and subsequent  actions . Those beliefs determine the words that come out of our mouths and the instructional moves that we make. And the potential collateral damage: the Charlies of the world and the Latino Maries.

We owe it to our kids -all of our kids --  to take stock of our beliefs, to reflect on what is driving us and to ask ourselves: what if it were otherwise? What if…?

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