By Jeanie Greenidge, AVID Teacher and Coordinator, O’Banion Middle School
Every school has at least one. That teacher who does the “hard, personal stuff.” She is the one who takes a student shopping for her first bra, when it’s time (because there is no one else available to do it). It is that teacher whom the other teachers approach to have a talk about the nuances of deodorant; that teacher who has an extra stock of snacks in case of hunger, of extra uniform clothing, some extra balm for chapped lips, feminine hygiene products, extra pens and pencils, and extra time to “be there” for our students; to listen and try to understand students. These “soft” skills come more easily for some teachers than others. These teachers can become a tribe unto themselves.
Sometimes, the teachers who do this “hard, personal stuff,” can feel marginalized. It can be lonely. In schools where sides are chosen in an “us versus them” duel, this teacher can seem a “them.” Let’s face it; in some hard ways our systems of schooling push teachers’ hearts out to the periphery. For those teachers who try with all their might to see students and make them visible by turning schools into homes for our students because that’s what they need, there seems to be little space for us in the crowded spaces of standardized testing, common core, and all the institutional flotsam and jetsam that can come between a teacher and her student. Ironically, it sometimes feels like the system has no room for real care. When a school system cannot accommodate care, it has to change. The climate and the culture of this school need a major paradigm shift or their capacity to help students achieve will be small and finite.
AVID Summer Institute is a great place to taste that change. The AVID Elective trainings at Summer Institute are the places where a teacher who does that “hard, personal stuff” can meet others who, like her, major in those difficult personal issues. When I walked into the implementation strand, immediately, I could sense that different vibe. Yes, we learned about Cornell notes, the AVID tutorial, the correlation between rigorous classes and student achievement and the Socratic seminar and the like, but these were teachers who were also going that extra mile for students personally and that was okay. During breaks, in share sessions, and in general discussions we learned that we were not alone and that we had power together and momentum as we began our AVID journey.
This ‘return to care’ ethos extended to our campus’s site team sessions, both at the Summer Institute, and when we returned to campus post-SI. When we adopted the AVID system, we put our students back at the heart of our campus. The AVID system was the bridge that brought the world of our students and the world of our teachers closer together. It was as though it was okay to truly see our students again—beyond numbers like attendance data, discipline statistics, benchmark scores, and test results. Once we had spent those Summer Institute days together, drafting and honing our plan to make a difference, I was never again as lonely as a teacher. I was not alone because the site team was with me, and on my side, which was solidly on the side of the student.
Mind you, not all educators are ready to break down those barriers nor are they anxious to bring these worlds together. These are likely the ones who will never attend an AVID Summer Institute nor join the site team. There is not a correlation between years of service and willingness to see students: New teachers are not necessarily more positive and veteran teachers are not by nature more negative, rather, it is more of a sense of want—who wants to get back in touch with the reason they became a teacher in the first place, and then use that professional passion to help students achieve what those students themselves might not believe they are capable of. You do not need to be “that teacher” to want to do a better job. For those who do, for those who understand that we have to truly see students, get closer to their worlds and understand where they are coming from to help them achieve their college dreams, your tribe is waiting for you at an AVID Summer Institute. There is no need to be lonely anymore.
Jeanie Greenidge is the AVID Elective Teacher/Coordinator at O’Banion Middle School in Garland, Texas. O’Banion is an AVID National Demonstration School. She has been teaching for 17 years. Her teaching passions include curriculum design, literacy education, and college readiness. The AVID at O’Banion website can be accessed at www.obanionavid.org.
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