Monday, February 4, 2013

An Unbelievable Teacher/Student Story

I "like" Humans of New York on Facebook.  It is the photography of a guy named Brandon who walks around the streets of the city taking portraits of interesting characters he meets along the way.  This morning, the photo and the story behind it took my breath away.

photo credit Humans of New York

Here's the story.  Grab a Kleenex.
"I never had any family growing up. But I still went to school everyday. One day, when I was in eleventh grade, my English teacher came up to me and said: "If you graduate, I'll adopt you. I'll show you the life. You'll do things you never dreamed of." And he kept his promise. He made it legal and everything. On the day I graduated, he was the only family I had there. My father's taken me everywhere since then. I've done all kinds of things."

This is exactly the kind of student that has little chance of  being served by a charter school.  With no family to care for him, and no one to fill out an application, the only place for him is the public schools.  

And he went.  And he graduated.  And he was able to do it because of the love and support of his English teacher. 

This is a one in a million story worthy of a screenplay.  What drove this student, alone in the world, to cling to his public school when so many kids choose the lure of the street or a gang instead?  What drove this teacher to connect to this student and give him a family and a home?

What is not unusual about this story is that teachers all over this country give their heart and souls to their students every day.  Reducing a teacher's contribution to a student to a growth percentage on a standardized test is antithetical to teaching.  Teaching is about connection, trust and honesty.  It is about nurturing and caring for our nation's youth.

As a parent I am incredibly grateful to the teachers that have given so much to my children.

As the wife of a teacher I feel for teachers whose spirits are being crushed by the entrenched poverty of students and never ending data avalanche that has befallen our public schools.  

I am not a religious person, but I pray that we can stem the tide of the reform movement before it permanently turns the public against teachers, and irrevocably destroys the public institutions standing between young men like this and the street.  

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