There really are sensible, practical, and effective solutions staring us in the face.
Individual students and teachers surely were aware of potential issues with this student. The student came from a difficult background. The student complained of being upset at being bullied.
The direct answer I found as a teacher was to encourage my students to write frequently. I shared with them proverbs and quotations daily to help them focus on better values and moral principles. I had them write what I called “Proverb Interpretation Compositions” and “Proverb Application Compositions.” My students told me verbally and in writing that this assignment “turned their lives around.”
I learned right away as a new teacher that if I failed to reach a student while he or she was in my class, that student might be headed for great difficulty in life, starting with dropping out of school.
If we learn the truth that every person is worth more than the whole world, as Jesus clearly taught, then we will hold each person in the highest regard. We will value every person supremely. We will do everything we can to reach out to every student and connect in a way that will bring out the best in them. When students observed and experienced that I really cared for each of them they usually responded positively. Some did not. It was my hope then and now that they would be reached by another teacher who had contact with them.
This is a most important issue. For many students who seem to end up on the “bad side” of life, the real issue is that they have not been successful in learning to read well.
I solved that problem for my struggling students by writing my own self-instructional reading program. I wrote it that way so they could do the work without my constant help.
I know that when I was allowed to use this program it transformed the attitudes and lives of my students because they showed remarkable improvement in reading comprehension and experienced success in all their other classes too.
When I taught world and American history at Southeastern High School I was given a box of 8 textbooks, not all the same title, to teach five classes of 35 or more students. Fortunately, I had a wonderful department head, Mr. Mercer, who granted me permission to do anything I could to help my students.
I wrote and typed up my own teaching materials. I placed them in sheet protectors and little binders to make what I called “selections” at my own expense. I typed up my self-instructional reading program in this loose leaf sized format. It had been in a 3 x 5 card format until then.
One day, the school principal called me into his office and showed me his latest copy of his principal’s notes. They contained a report at showed Southeastern High School had shown the greatest improvement in reading achievement of Detroit’s 22 high schools. He told me that improvement was traced to my history class students. He said he wanted to appoint me to the position of Reading Specialist. He wanted me to teach reading in a special program. I refused to take the position because I wanted to remain under Mr. Mercer’s supervision. The principal repeated the requests, and the third time I agreed with the stipulation that I was to be free to create my own materials and not be required to use the materials supplied by the Detroit Board of Education. I also requested that the English Department Head be kept off my back. The principal agreed.
I was given the supposedly lowest-achievement students who were at the greatest risk of dropping out. In fact, I was told that most of the students assigned to my new program would probably drop out before the end of the semester.
The first question my new classes asked me was, “Mr. Smith, is this a class for dummies?” I told them, “Absolutely not. If you follow my directions you will turn into geniuses.”
It turned out that most of my students did not drop out, but improved their reading achievement, and successfully went on to college.
Now, if the Lord enabled me to successfully help at-risk students, where are the rest of the Christian teachers in our public schools? At present they are stifled and cannot really teach what they know ought to be taught by those above them that may know less than they do.
That happened to me too, but I refused to be stifled. I even dared the administrators at Cass Technical High School, the first high school where I taught English, to a public debate, and if they did not wish to debate me directly, I challenged them to secure the services of the head of the ACLU. I figured I knew the law better than either they or he did.
I could say that because I had taken a course in school law at Wayne State University where I was working on my Master’s degree. The professor was so impressed with my work he took me to meet the head of the law school.
My “remedial reading” students were so excited about what they were learning in my class that they talked about it to their other teachers. One day the social studies teacher asked me, saying, “Mr. Smith, I know you are a well-educated man. But the students tell me that you do not believe in evolution. Is that true?” I said it certainly was. Then the teacher asked, “Would you be willing to debate the science teachers about this?” I said, “Any time. You don’t need to give me any time to prepare. I’m ready.”
The debate took place.
My science teacher friend, Darryl Hackett, an experienced attorney who taught school for fun and the joy of teaching, not because he needed the income, said in front of the science department teachers at Southeastern High School who had challenged me to a debate, “Jerry, you should have been an attorney.” He was an experienced debate judge and said I had won the debate.
A good while later in my teaching career I was given a handwritten list of 21 students by Coach Stuckey at Denby High School, the last school where I taught, students who had earned full athletic scholarships to college. As a result of having these students use my reading program and my volunteer tutoring of them after school to help them pass the ACT test, they became qualified for their scholarships.
I have never seen the name of any of my former students in the news because they were involved in crime.
I know my solutions work.
If President Trump is looking for answers let him know I have them!