It can go without saying that where there is poverty, education will suffer. When education suffers, students suffer. When students are suffering then it’s without a doubt that teachers are suffering. You can have a phenomenal teacher in the classroom but the dynamic of a kids' home life play a vital role in what happens in the classroom. Unfortunately “the hood” has changed from high rises to low rises, they look nice now but it’s the same people occupying the neighborhood. Many families/students are homeless. Many students are depressed and angry and don’t know how to cope with their spiraling emotions. Many students only come to school to get a meal and to connect with an adult that genuinely cares and wants to see them do well. Many schools don’t use or can’t afford textbooks; they print pages and pages and pages and pages from textbooks or pages from online sites. Some schools don’t have a nurse. Who is issuing medication? For some odd reason the city government continues to fail public education, so I guess their impoverished as well?
Lack of Parenting
I can’t say that a single parent household causes a child to suffer; I was raised by my mother and my aunt. No real mentor figure; just positive adults, positive friends, and my mom constantly reminding me of why we are here in this country. Unfortunately urban communities are known to have single parent households led by mothers. Growing up I witnessed absent fathers; dead, incarcerated, with another family or just simply uninterested in raising a child. All the responsibility now becomes that of a woman who is not prepared, not equipped, simply not mature enough. As I’ve grown older parents have gotten younger. There are folks I went to high school with that are grandparents. It was almost a norm to have a child before graduating high school, not just in Philly where I'm from, but around the country. Who would have ever thought that would become a norm? As a result, when you are raising a child the foundational basics are not employed to every child because the parent doesn’t even have all the basics. Developmental delays occur at earlier ages. In turn, this now affects learning because the only parent teaching a child is the woman (more than likely) or man in the classroom. Once a kid exits the school door that’s it for learning for the day. There isn’t much reinforcement of the lessons learned on any particular day. Without much review of instructional material students won’t retain much. In order for retention to occur the material must be reviewed. Many of the students fail in my building just on not turning in homework. The school somehow becomes the other parent. The parent that fills in all the gaps and deals with all the insecurities, depression, anger, suicidal ideations, aggressiveness, ignorance, and immaturity that is now the character of a student. I sometimes I feel like I'm the parent of 200 kids.
I work in a middle school with a little over 200 students, of which 45–50 of those students are identified as requiring specialized services. Special Education can be categorized as either a student who requires emotional support or academic support. Either way this is a large number; and there are probably more that require specialized services that aren’t identified. The downside to Special Education services is that many classes are now required to have all inclusive classrooms and a support teacher will push into the classroom. Classrooms are now overcrowded and every student doesn’t receive the necessary attention. A teacher on any given day may spend 15 minutes of a 45 minute class addressing negative behavior. In the past, when I was in school, the special education students were in separate classrooms. This resulted in teasing by general education students, which led to arguments and fights between the two groups. The other part of this also can be blamed on a parent that wants to put all the responsibility on the school to educate their child so they push to have their child identified when all that needs to happen is a strong parental presence that supports education outside of school. This also ties in to the lack of early developmental parenting from a young parent. Students now become dependent on extra supports and use them as an excuse. I see it all day.
Hip Hop Culture
It’s difficult to say if there is research that’s out there that supports this notion but throughout my time in the workforce I’ve noticed that kids emulate what they see or hear repeatedly. Young parents love music and it trickles down to their offspring. Don’t get me wrong, we loved music just as much when we were growing up. However, it didn’t drive me and give me direction. Today, it appears to give our kids direction. They want to be the person in the music video, so they do everything they sing about. Hustle via drug deals, disrespect anyone who doesn’t stand for what they stand for, do whatever is necessary to earn a dollar, dress the way they dress. These kids today are just trapped in a world of negativity that is portrayed through music and it runs their life and its get in the way of education because it walks into the classroom with them and it fills their character.
There are tons of contributions that add to the failures of education in urban communities. Some are small fixes, low hanging fruit and others are going to take years of governmental policies to correct, and I’m scared that they may never even be corrected. The only thing that we can do as concerned citizens is grab a kid by the hand and feed them the knowledge that we know is right and will lead them to success. I’ve done the most that I can do from working with adjudicated youth who carried guns to working with kids preparing them for higher education to now being the emotional and academic support they need while in an educational setting. My hope is always for my kids to find success through education and want the best for themselves