One Good Teacher

It sometimes happens during our time in school that we get one good teacher; one person who offers us a glimpse of the big picture, a motive to excel, an understanding of the options on the road ahead.

On a recent tour of Prince of Wales elementary school in Hamilton, I was surprised to see that they had set up a tracking system to measure at what level each kid was performing and to track their progress. The interesting thing about the PoW (an unfortunate moniker) system is that it was a roadmap of success for the school and each kid had a place on it; each kid was part of the success and had to succeed individually in order for the school to succeed.

When did my MBA I quickly got a tutor for my finance class cause it seemed to me that I wasn’t learning anything. After our first mid-term when 70% the class failed there was a general sense that it wasn’t the students who were at fault and my tutor was called in to pinch hit weekly for the rest of the class. Evidently I didn’t even know enough at the time to know if it was me or the teacher who wasn’t making sense.

This is also true in grade three and grade four and grade five. You don’t know that you’re not alone in your struggles. You don’t know that 2/3 of the school is below the level they should be at for reading, for instance. All you know is that you’re a dummy, or a disappointment. And most people, be they teachers or not, are not going to look much farther than at the kid to find out the source of the problem or even try to solve it. Most people are content to agree – the kid’s a dummy. Why look for an answer that might point to me? Or you? Or to a problem that is beyond my ability to solve?

So when I saw this system at Prince of Wales School, I could see right away that there was more than one good teacher at this school and that there was some mighty fine leadership that wasn’t afraid to find the source of the problem and tackle it even if it seems insurmountable. So when they saw that so many of the kids were below grade level in basic skills like reading, they started recruiting readers from the community, people to come in and read to a kid for a short time each day, or each week, or each month. People to come in and help kids get used to hearing someone read.

I remember doing this with my little friend Xavier many years ago, and the struggles we went through. I remember his mother’s breakthrough when in a conversation it came out that it seemed to him as if all the other kids had come to school “knowing” how to read, whereas he didn’t. So his mother explained to him that all those other kids had had to learn to read just like he was doing, they just happened to do it before him. And that was his breakthrough that got him on the reading track.

So if you live in the neighbourhood of Ivor Wynn Stadium, which is right beside Prince of Wales School, and if you can read, and if you’ve got a bit of time each week, call up the school and tell them you want to read to a kid. If you’ve got a business in the neighbourhood, consider giving your employees an hour off (paid) each week to do the same. With so many kids, demand is high.

We’ve all heard the stats. We’ve seen the movies and read the news stories. The “Three Rs” are the starting point for every bit of success that these kids are heading for and this intrepid school could use your help putting them on the right path.

It’s our turn to be that one good teacher.

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