It is with growing frustration that I read press release after press release (and some reporters even pick up on it) that children cannot learn in NZ classrooms because of inequality or learning difficulties. A classic example is that ofÂ former NZEI President Judith Nowatowski:
“No matter how fantastic a teacher is, the socio-economic background of a child is by far the biggest indicator of educational success. We want every child to reach their potential, but that is difficult for children who live in transient, unhealthy homes with near-empty fridges,” she said.
While there are no doubt research correlations, and no doubt economic problems to be solved, Â the very last thing any teacher should take into any classroom is a preconception that any individual child cannot succeed because….
Education is about ensuring that a child is a victim of nothing and teachers – collectively or individually giving it the … “you can’t because”… is not what they are paid for.
A key aim of teaching is to work with individuals to defy the odds. Teaching should always be 100% aspirational – never a finger pointing exercise. Teachers, parents, children and communities are all affected by negativity from those whose job it is to inspire and educate the next generation. (This was another NZEI bleat: âThis government has tried to create a âcrisisâ atmosphere in schools to justify its agenda that includes National Standards, charter schools and a competitive, business approach to education,â she said.Â âTheyâre trying to blame teachers for children not reaching their potential when poverty is the real cause.”)
It only takes one example to state why it is important for teachers/educators to never write children off – or even cite background – as a deterministic factor in why they cannot succeed. So, I have been doing some reading, and here are two extreme international examples to really fill the pot.
Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born premature and sickly on June 23, 1940, in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, the 20th of 22 children to parents Ed and Blanche Rudolph, and went on to become an African-American pioneer of track and field. But the road to victory was not an easy one for Wilma Rudolph. Stricken with polio as a child, she had problems with her left leg and had to wear a brace. It was with great determination and the help of physical therapy that she was able to overcome the disease as well as her resulting physical disabilities. She overcame her disabilities through physical therapy and hard work, and went on to become a gifted runner. Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics in 1960, at the Summer Games in Rome, and later worked as a teacher and track coach.
Read more »