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Learning and Achievement
Educators have many hats to wear throughout the educational journey and achievement and success of learners. School culture and classroom environments have a major impact on how students receive teachers and the curriculum they are teaching. In this paper, I will discuss the culture and socioeconomic data of our school and community, school achievements, ethics of care and multicultural commitments on our campus. I will also provide some recommendations for improvement in some areas of concern.
Culture and Socioeconomic Data
The school that I have worked with for over 15 years is located in southeast Dallas, the suburban city of Balch Springs, Texas. Our community is predominately Hispanic, and our school is ninety-five percent Hispanic and one hundred percent economically disadvantaged. Using data found on the U.S. Census Bureau, I found that our population is estimated at twenty-five thousand and three hundred pupils and that’s an increase from seven years ago by about fifteen hundred pupils. Households are composed of an average of three persons and over fifty percent speak a language other than English in the home. The average household has an “income median of $ 45,308 with mortgage and rental rates ranging from $ 928 to $ 1,198” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019). The average percent of children aged five and under is almost at ten percent while eighteen and under average a little over thirty-five percent. The most important factor in comparing data is the education levels that make up the local community. Persons that graduated high school weigh in at fifty-seven percent and pupils who have obtained a Bachelors’ degree or higher sit below seven percent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019). Ethnicity data shows that Balch Springs is fifty-eight percent Hispanic, twenty-one percent African-American or Black and seventeen percent White (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019). The community that surrounds my school is rather small in ranks when it comes to businesses. With a few major retail stores such as, Wal-Mart and Target being the largest grocery marketers competing with smaller privately-owned Mexican specialty grocery stores in the area, many individuals opt to near-by cities to shop. Being a suburb of Dallas, larger and newer shopping areas tend to take away local community member profit making an impact on economic conditions. Small business owners predominately rely on community members to continue to support them by shopping local. There are numerous fast food chains and gas stations that provide employment opportunities for individuals who want to stay within the city limits to have a career. There are no institutions to further education beyond high school in the city limits itself, however, community colleges are near.
Academic performance is a major issue in schools who are measured based on assessment testing. Instruction and curriculum are constantly getting aligned with standardized testing and unfortunately is the main focus. When a school such as ours, low performing in all core subjects, its difficult to give students the same educational experiences as schools who have resources, funding and who perform well on standardized tests. Our school has been underperforming academically for two years in a roll now and although we have made little progress, we still remain an at-risk campus. Teacher retention is a major issue due to low performing students in reading and math. This past year I recall a first-grade classroom having four different teachers all before Spring Break. This inconsistency definitely had its impact on this particular group of students. Also, permanent substitutes have been placed in classrooms for at least half the school year. Under qualified staff covering core subjects are limiting the learning environments and can be a direct reflection on student performance.
Ethics of Care
Ethics of care can be described as the care of one’s self, students, education, school and community. It is imperative that teachers demonstrate and practice ethics of care in their daily passion to educate young minds. Students connect to teachers who genuinely care about their academic performance, personal growth and home lives. These students tend to respond better to instruction due to the relationship that is centered on the care of that student. According to Owens and Ennis (2005) “teacher education programs and professional development programs fail to address ethics of care and the importance of its impact on the educational process”. Assessing the ethics of care on my campus I would have to say it’s visible and present in majority of our teaching staff. I would also say, as witnessed, it only takes one teacher to have a negative impact on student performance. I’ve seen many teachers lose control of their tempers and take frustrations out on students who are misbehaving. And these students never perform well in this kind of environments, usually the teacher wants administration to remove them all together. I’ve witnessed teachers yelling in students faces, talk badly about them with colleagues and ultimately have the attitude of “I’m not wasting time on them anymore”. This type of campus climate is ineffective at keeping the best interest of the student a priority.
Commitment to Multicultural Education
The commitment to multicultural education within my school district exists but it’s not as good as it should be. Recognizing and incorporating diverse backgrounds is an important educational experience for young students. According to the census data and the data of students who graduate, it’s important to give students an opportunity to learn about different cultures and appreciate the differences and similarities. Majority of our high school graduates do not have plans on attending college or universities, some choice to work for their family businesses and stay within the community. Few venture out for the full college experience of living on campus and being far from family. Fortunately, we have implemented programs that introduced college preparations as early as middle school. Parental involvement has increased over the past couple of years and has had tremendous impacts on support for students.
Recommendations for Improvements
After thorough analysis of the general population and education levels within the area of which I work, the data is a bit surprising. Having worked with children in this area for fifteen years the data definitely backs our student’s expectations of where and what they want to pursue after graduation. I was semi-shocked that the actual statistics of persons holding a Bachelor’s degree was so low, just over six percent. As long as I can remember pushing my students to aim for college was politely declined and most have goals of working for their family businesses or just wanting to start a family of their own. Most would work jobs for the short-term of earning money fast and others had been groomed to take over jobs in construction to work for their fathers and uncles. And the eldest child usually had a primary role in helping raise younger siblings so they could not go off to college and leave their family. When I first started working in the education field, I was completely shocked that students had no desire to further their education beyond twelfth grade. I can remember my first years into coaching and pushing for college for my student-athletes and they used every excuse available as to why they could not attend or want to even take on campus visits. Most were the first in their families to graduate high school and that was plenty accomplishment to satisfy their parents. I knew my students had the skills and knowledge to succeed in college but what they lacked was far more challenging. They lacked the confidence, motivation, and the desire to be better than their parents. They lacked the support from parents and the experience of independence from being the eldest caretaker of siblings. I believe it’s important to have some knowledge of a sociological inventory. And would rank at the top, being familiar with the community customs and traditions as my number one and population characteristics ranking in at number two. These two alone I have seen make an impact on a student’s educational choices after high school and sometimes before they even graduate. As we have shifted into a more advanced technological era, I have seen tremendous change in the attitudes of our students toward college. We, as a school district, have changed the way we involve parents and have provided them with tools and resources to play an active role in educating themselves by having English classes for parents during the evenings. Offering opportunities to voice concerns through PTO meetings and allowing them to feel a part of their children’s learning. According to Gonzalez (2012), the effectiveness and quality of teachers who are associated with high expectations, positive attitudes, empathy and advocacy are in a position to serve greater benefits to low-performing students. These are the qualities that our teachers need to focus on to better serve our multicultural learners.
In conclusion, taking the statistical data of our schools’ community and the projected growth we as educators need to step up our professional development programs and programs that connect with parents and the community. The success of our students depends on how much we raise our own bars. We cannot continue to provide a mediocre educational journey for students, as we are, we are doing them no justice in preparing them for the real world. Not all students have the aspirations of college or universities and that’s complete ok. But where we fail them is when we do not give them the skills and knowledge to carry-on straight out of high school. Implementing new programs that involve parents and the community will help bridge the gap for future success in careers. It’s important to recognize students diverse background throughout their schooling and build upon their knowledge of their own and other cultures. We must always practice ethics of care to support student learning and reinforce the academic achievements our students make. This relationship is a vital role in the success of students learning interest, feeling accomplished and setting goals.
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