What might yearly failures on forced college and career readiness assessments have done to a young Maya Angelou? What messages would today's increasingly rote education system, and her likely inability to submit to such a system, have imprinted on her young, developing mind?
I hope EVERY teacher and EVERY parent will think about her life story before they cede more and more of their student's or their children's education to the assembly line model we are adopting in this country, where we demand children meet certain standards by certain ages or risk being labeled "not proficient" or worse yet, a "failure".
Please remember her story when you look at a child. Always look for their potential, and realize it may not manifest when and how you think it should, or when state and federal education departments insist it should.
And please understand their potential may not be reflected on a standardized test.
Each and every child has their own path and their own story. Children can not and should not be reduced down to data points to satisfy the accountability needs of administrators and politicians.
Be the person who believes in a child. Be the person who supports a child. Be the person who encourages a child.
For that child could be the next Maya.
Her own story served as a cautionary tale not to discount the potential of any individual. When she was about nine years old she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and became selectively mute after the rapist’s subsequent murder, believing she was responsible for his death because she named him. Living in poverty in rural Arkansas, and selectively mute, she had the odds stacked against her. By the time she was sixteen, she was a single mother in San Francisco. In these situations, there were “rainbows” – people who believed in her, supported and encouraged her.
Angelou closed by calling for educators to recognize their power: "We are the possible. We are the true. We are the miracle."
|Maya Angelou at ASCD Conference in Chicago, March 2013|
Photo credit David B. Cohen