Thursday, April 15, 2010


I teach at a transfer high school that wants to push students to pursue some form of secondary education (I say "wants" because it's our first year and building a culture of success is tough). Our dedicated staff of teachers and advisers talk about the benefits of college on an everyday basis it seems. And obviously, since college isn't for everyone we also talk about trade schools or any other sort of post-high school institution. I really think higher education is a major factor in breaking the cycle my students are in. As a result, the SAT comes up quite a bit.

The SAT is arguably one of the most important exams a high school student will take. I would argue that as long as you have decent grades and a solid application (explaining why your grades were just "decent"), a good SAT score can carry you into any school. It's a number that follows you everywhere.

In my opinion, you're either a good test taker or you're not. The SAT doesn't test anything except how good you are at actually taking the SAT. It doesn't tell you how intelligent you are or how much money you're going to make. In order to beat this test, you just need to put in the time and practice.

My school recently decided to hire Kaplan to lead a SAT Prep course this trimester after school. Given my students' attendance issues and sheer flakiness, we obviously can't and quite honestly shouldn't accommodate everybody. It would be a waste of both time and money. So out of about 150 students at my school (yes, it's quite small), the top 30 (they really are top notch in terms of skills) were chosen by staff and advisors to participate in the Kaplan course for free. Zilch. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. The Kaplan course costs $500 per student out-of-pocket (at a discount). My school is generously forking the bill for these kids. Seriously, what a fucking great opportunity!

So when only 11 out of the 30 invited showed up Tuesday for the first prep class, I felt stupefied. A weight suddenly dropped over my shoulders and its impact resonated through my body. I think this was the very first time I truly felt afraid of the future and I didn't like it. The last thing I want is for them to hit their late 20s (or 30s or 40s) with kids of their own and realize, "Fuck, I really shoulda done something. He was right yo. O well, hope ma kids do better."

I'm just going to just go ahead and put it out there: In this case, hope is for pussies.


Naqiya said...

as i told one of your students - they are so spoilt!! kids in pakistan in their position would kill for the kind of attention you give your students, and the opportunities the school is giving them (access to laptops, SAT prep classes etc. all free of cost!). its so telling of how little they value education; they dont see that its the only way out for them, or the only way ahead. which is sad because by the time they'll understand, this will just be another missed opportunity.

good luck! just keep your focus on those who want to work, the 15 who actually showed up, and hope that the rest figure their shit out sooner rather than later.

Sara said...

I also think that when things are given for free...people don't value them as much. When you stick an expensive label on a shit bottle of wine, it's magically worth something. It's a double-edged sword...when things are free, they are unappreciated and un-valued, when they cost money, it's a barrier to accessing important resources. I'm guessing the students knew that the course was $500 and they were getting a scholarship for it? Maybe having it open to people to applying for the class and subsidy would make them more invested in it, rather than selecting them? ridiculously frustrating. I really admire you and all teachers who give a s*!t.