A teen headed down a dead-end path. A teacher who rerouted him.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has an inspiring column today about the power of teachers to change lives.

He writes about Olly Neal, a poor kid with such a bad attitude that he pushed his teacher Mildred Grady to tears. One of 13 kids growing up in a house with no electricity, Neal attended a segregated Arkansas school and was considered a problem student.

But in his senior year, Neal stole a book from the high school library, and it changed everything. He eventually became Judge Neal. His inspiring story was featured on NPR’s StoryCorps in 2009, and you can hear Neal tell his own version here. In that oral history, Neal also credits a second educator, Mrs. Saunders, as a co-conspirator with Mrs. Grady in his redemption.

Kristof writes about Neal today:  (This is a small excerpt. Please read the full piece. It is worth your time.)

Neal wasn’t a reader, but he spotted a book with a risqué cover of a sexy woman. Called “The Treasure of Pleasant Valley,” it was by Frank Yerby, a black author, and it looked appealing. Neal says he thought of checking it out, but he didn’t want word to get out to any of his classmates that he was reading a novel. That would have been humiliating.

“So I stole it.”

Neal tucked the book under his jacket and took it home — and loved it. After finishing the book, he sneaked it back into the library. And there, on the shelf, he noticed another novel by Yerby. He stole that one as well. This book was also terrific. And, to Neal’s surprise, when he returned it to the shelf after finishing it, he found yet another by Yerby.

Four times this happened, and he caught the book bug. “Reading got to be a thing I liked,” he says. His trajectory changed, and he later graduated to harder novels, including those by Albert Camus, and he turned to newspapers and magazines as well. He went to college and later to law school. In 1991, Neal was appointed the first black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas. A few years later, he became a judge, and then an appellate court judge.

But there’s more. At a high school reunion, Grady stunned Neal by confiding to him that she had spotted him stealing that first book. Her impulse was to confront him, but then, in a flash of understanding, she realized his embarrassment at being seen checking out a book.

So Grady kept quiet. The next Saturday, she told him, she drove 70 miles to Memphis to search the bookshops for another novel by Yerby. Finally, she found one, bought it and put it on the library bookshelf. Twice more, Grady told Neal, she spent her Saturdays trekking to Memphis to buy books by Yerby — all in hopes of turning around a rude adolescent who had made her cry. She paid for the books out of her own pocket.

How can one measure Grady’s impact? Not only in Neal, but in the lives of those around him. His daughter, Karama, earned a doctorate in genetics, taught bioethics at Emory University, and now runs a community development program in Arkansas.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

48 comments Add your comment

Thanks, Maureen, from Good MOm

January 22nd, 2012
3:08 pm

This is a wonderful topic. Maureen. Thanks for posting it. My story is not nearly so dramatic but I owe a lot to a couple of teachers and a nurse who helped me when I really needed it.

Thanks so much for sharing it. I would love to hear more stories like these.

Good Mom

The Important Message from Good Mom

January 22nd, 2012
3:15 pm

The “lesson” we learn from this story is an important one. In this judge;’s own words:

“To me, the lesson is that while there are no silver bullets to chip away at poverty or improve national competitiveness, improving the ranks of teachers is part of the answer. That’s especially true for needy kids, who often get the weakest teachers. That should be the civil rights scandal of our time.

The implication is that we need rigorous teacher evaluations, more pay for good teachers and more training and weeding-out of poor teachers. The need for more pay is simple. In the 1950s, outstanding women like Grady didn’t have many alternatives, and they became teachers. Grady was black, so she didn’t have many options other than teaching black children in a segregated school.

Today, women like Grady often become doctors, lawyers or bankers — professions with far higher salaries. If we want to recruit and retain the best teachers, we simply have to pay more — while also more aggressively thinning out those who don’t succeed. It’s worth it.

“There are some kids who can’t be reached,” Neal acknowledges. “But there are some that you can reach every now and then.” As his life attests.”

Very well said.
Good Mom

Mary Elizabeth

January 22nd, 2012
3:21 pm

“At a high school reunion, (Teacher) Grady stunned Neal by confiding to him that she had spotted him stealing that first book. Her impulse was to confront him, but then, in a flash of understanding, she realized his embarrassment at being seen checking out a book.

So Grady kept quiet. The next Saturday, she told him, she drove 70 miles to Memphis to search the bookshops for another novel by Yerby. Finally, she found one, bought it and put it on the library bookshelf. Twice more, Grady told Neal, she spent her Saturdays trekking to Memphis to buy books by Yerby — all in hopes of turning around a rude adolescent who had made her cry. She paid for the books out of her own pocket.”
=========================================

This example is what makes a great teacher, and not simply a good one. And, this example illustrates, beautifully, why computers can never replace teachers. How does one explain, adequately, the power of love to transform?

Once, a student had stolen a favorite book of mine, which I had taken to school to read on my lunch break. The book was “Strength to Love” by Martin Luther King, Jr. In truth, I was pleased that a student had taken that book because I had shared with my students its content. The essence of what I valued most was to be found in the pages of that book. I don’t know “the rest of the story,” regarding that student’s unfolding life, because I never actually knew who had stolen my book, nor did I care to pursue knowing. I was simply glad that any student, who could have stolen from another, would be enriched by reading of a greater, and more loving, vision, as King tried to share with the world.

“Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13)

To Mary Elizabeth from Good Mom

January 22nd, 2012
3:31 pm

Your comment is beautiful “the power of love to tranform.”

Yes, indeed.

GM

dekalbed

January 22nd, 2012
3:47 pm

I was also inspired when I read about Grady’s impact and Neal’s success this morning. And I do think it’s important to recognize such influences. Nevertheless, the impact of this type of encouragement is the exception-not the rule. I also think it’s worth noting that Mrs. Grady was teaching (if she was still teaching when Neal “wandered in the library, set up by Grady” since it isn’t clear whether she was now the librarian or a teacher interested in the library) before public education became mired in paperwork ( RTI, data notebooks, differentiated lessons plans, word walls, posted standards, scripted lesson plans, meeting over hot topic in eduworld today, devising newest strategy to compensate for X session, teacher-centered discipline policy requiring teachers to manage and document tardies/absences/disruptive behavioral problems that used to be managed by the attendance office or discipline office). Notice that none of the possible interferences I parenthetically cite have anything to do with the students because students (at least most of them) aren’t usually the problem.

Like Kristoff, I agree we need to give good teachers more competetive salaries and useful training and weed-out those ineffective teachers. Without a more rigorous evaluation of public school systems, however, good teachers will continue only to make small impacts. Our society and struggling students deserve more than just good teachers. We deserve efficient systems that are hed accountable for the way they spend money, the curricula they offer, the classes they schedule, and the environments they foster.

William Casey

January 22nd, 2012
4:35 pm

GOOD MOM makes a very important point in her 3:15 post. The talent pool for prospective teachers is more shallow than it was 50 years ago.

Tony

January 22nd, 2012
4:37 pm

Teachers do not do these things because of evaluations, test scores, rankings or any other of the current, popular “cures” for teaching that are touted by reform “experts”. They do these things for two big reasons – 1) it is the right thing to do; and 2) because their heart is in it.

Each day, I am privileged to witness teachers giving of themselves above the call of duty. They do it because they care about the students and want them to have the best opportunities. According to Deming and Pink, we will see all these kinds of efforts crumble under teacher evaluation systems that overemphasize test scores.

Lee

January 22nd, 2012
4:48 pm

“Neal says he thought of checking it out, but he didn’t want word to get out to any of his classmates that he was reading a novel. That would have been humiliating.”

Interesting. So, even back in the 50’s, there was an anti-achievement attitude exhibited by black students. Wonder what they called it back then? Couldn’t be “acting white”, because they were in segregated schools.
————————————-

“… she drove 70 miles to Memphis to search the bookshops for another novel by Yerby.”

Let me get this straight, in the 1950’s, when very few blacks owned cars, when most women didn’t drive (white or black) and there were no Interstates to speak of, this lady drove 70 miles to pick up a book.

Riiiggghhhtttt. My BS meter went off the scale on that one.
————————————–

I’m sorry, but schools in the 50’s didn’t tolerate students with “bad attitudes” who were insolent and “made teachers cry.” They would have whipped his butt into submission or kicked him out.

Methinks mr Neal likes to “embellish” his memories.

Dr. Proud Black Man

January 22nd, 2012
5:01 pm

@ Lee

I thought I was being overly cynical but I thought the same things too!

Mary Elizabeth

January 22nd, 2012
5:31 pm

@ Good Mom, 3:31 pm.

Thank you for your comment.

The Dekalbed from Good Mom

January 22nd, 2012
7:33 pm

Your comments say that this black woman back in 1950s had an easier time teaching black students than you have today.

I think you’re very very wrong. Go do some research. My dad went to school back then and he tells me a very very different story about how the students had to chop the wood for the little stove in the school he attended and that classrooms were very crowded, so crowded, in fact that the teacher taught and when he didn’t catch on as quickly (his parents had very little education) another six year old taught him how to read as she was further along in her abilities.

Perhaps you’ve gathererd your opinions from television. Shows like “Happy days’ made things seem idealic.

Please do your research — talk to some black people who actually went to school in the 1950s….I think you might have to eat your words.

The cynics from Good Mom

January 22nd, 2012
7:38 pm

The cynics, like Dr. Proud Black Man, want us not to believe this story. They have an agenda — to escape responsibility for not teaching children what they need to know.

If cynics like Dr. Proud Black man can convince us that this story is a lie, then he and others have to face up to the fact that teachers today aren’t doing as good a job as they could do.

Dr. Black Man and Dekalbed, your pitiful agenda is as clear as Saran Wrap.

Dr. Proud Black Man

January 22nd, 2012
8:00 pm

Wow I just agreed with Lee Good Mom! Did you forget about him or does my moniker bring forth ASSumptions of “impudence” and “insolence?”

yes i am worried

January 22nd, 2012
8:18 pm

Good Mother

Why are you so incredibly angry? What has gone so terribly wrong in your life? When I read your posts, I really feel as though you don’t want parents to be held accountable for anything. I hope I am wrong.

Anyway, the challenge today is that I think there are far more Olly Neals in schools today. No longer are there jobs in the fields and factories waiting for unskilled workers., Kids stay in school because there is nothing else to do and are disruptive. Teachers are often simply managing classrooms rather than inspiring.

No easy solution except to kick out the disruptive students and have viable alternative tracks for education. We desperately need strong vocational programs.

dteacher

January 22nd, 2012
8:37 pm

Good Mom,

I said no such thing. In fact,I would never characterize anyone’s teaching as easy or difficult. Instead, I was pointing out that many administrative mandates and some administrators indirectly interfere with the impact teachers can have on students.

Please direct me to the research that discusses the difference in difficulties students in the 1950s faced to the difficulties students today face. It sounds interesting.

Lee

January 22nd, 2012
8:44 pm

@GM, there is no “agenda” to be found here by those exhibiting a bit of skepticism of this story. I just think it is a “feel good” story with too many holes to be considered entirely factual.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

January 23rd, 2012
7:46 am

Very inspirational. My heart is all warm like a piece of buttered toast.

Truth in Moderation

January 23rd, 2012
8:07 am

Did anyone bother to look at the subject matter of the novels the teacher was pushing? It is obvious that Neal could read well. The majority of the literature available to him in the library was about the white culture and written from their perspective. He wasn’t interested. The African American author Frank Yerby gave him literature written from his own cultural perspective. That interested him.
Check out Frank Yerby’s books:
http://www.frankyerby.com/view.html

To Yes I am Worried From Good Mother

January 23rd, 2012
8:08 am

You can search for my posts and see the cause — those adults who choose to lie and steal and cheat our children out of an education by changing test scoes and those who brag they will do it again.

The other horrible segement of society that I cannot fathom is the one who think it is OK not to teach all of America’s children. That somehow it is OK to only eduate Amercian citizens to the eighth grade and then of course, complain about the uneducated.

It’s enough to make me leave. I talked to Daddy over the weekend about trying to find work in another State. I don’t want my children to be permanently influenced by all this corruption.

TO dteacher From Good Mother

January 23rd, 2012
8:11 am

You’ve asked “Please direct me to the research that discusses the difference in difficulties students in the 1950s faced to the difficulties students today face. It sounds interesting.”

You mean you have no idea how to do research on your own? You don’t know how to use a public library? …and you call yourself a teacher?

So pitiful.

V for Vendetta

January 23rd, 2012
8:56 am

Though the story seems just a bit Hallmark channel for my taste, there is a very good point here in a quote that Good Mom posted:

“There are some kids who can’t be reached,” Neal acknowledges. “But there are some that you can reach every now and then.” As his life attests.”

SOME kids. EVERY NOW AND THEN.

But, as others have pointed out, with diminishing resources, flimsy discipline, and overwhelming expectations, how often do you think we can reach these few diamonds in the rough?

dbf

January 23rd, 2012
9:01 am

This is a heart warming story about teachers. I contend it’s not the money that needs to change, but the level of respect teachers are given in America. In reality teacher pay is much better than many college professors get for teaching at the university level, even with a PhD. I know this to be a face for my brother in law with a PhD in organic chemistry.

Education has lost focus on educating children. Education has become a business for big companies to make money in the name of educating children. Education has become like a factory, everyone is supposed to teach the same way (direct instruction/scripted lessons). There is little creativity or the ability to think and meet the needs of the children that you have. Education is not about teaching, but getting good test scores, even if that means not teaching the children to do anything but answer multiple choice tests.

Anyone under the impression that education is about educating, needs to really deeply into what is happening. We spend more money now than at any time in our country and our kids are poorly educated, and have little ability to think and problem solve.

Truth in Moderation

January 23rd, 2012
9:11 am

Good Mother, you seem to be a Good “Observer”. How much does PsyOps pay you per hour?
Are they still hiring?
LOL!

To V for Vendetta from Good Mom

January 23rd, 2012
11:09 am

You asked “But, as others have pointed out, with diminishing resources, flimsy discipline, and overwhelming expectations, how often do you think we can reach these few diamonds in the rough?”

You will likely never know as another teacher has posted (Mary Elizabeth?) about her own experience. The point is the same, though, that teachers shouldn’t give up and decide for themselves that teaching is hopeless and when (not if but when) those teachers decide that nothing can be done, they need to leave the profession of teaching.

As the judge said “The implication is that we need rigorous teacher evaluations, more pay for good teachers and more training and weeding-out of poor teachers.”

“…more weeding-out of poor teachers.” They do exist, of course, as in every profession has rotten applies but in the teaching profession those rotten apples more often than not just stay in the barrel. To further his point, they need to be prevented from being in the profession in the first place.

Just as many teachers claim there are “bad apples” in students, more is true of “bad apples” as teachers. Students are not fully formed. Kids have a chance to turn around and have a caring and loving teacher or other adult intervene but adults, the teachers, are fully formed.

Bad apple teachers need to go — there is no hope to redeem an adult who has no hope but the same is not true for a child. We cannot throw away a child because a teacher thinks they are a bad apple. Instead, either the teacher needs to go or the child needs a different teacher.

Where there are children involved, we must always have hope and perseverence. We cannot throw away a child.

V for Vendetta

January 23rd, 2012
11:43 am

Good Mom,

But here is where we disagree and some (most) of the burden must be shifted back to parents. I see 150 kids per day for a little less than an hour. During the course of each day, week, semester, and year, I must evaluate countless times which kids are worth “saving” and which kids are hopeless–in addition, of course, to my normal teaching duties and instruction of “normal” mainstream students. When during the course of my day am I supposed to reach every student? I also coach a sport, sponsor a club, and am working on my third degree. And I have a wife and children.

So when? You need to understand something: there are hundreds if not thousands of teachers just like me out there who bust their butts to do they best they can. “I always thought fine folks were the ones who did they best they could with what they had.” Good enough for Scout Finch. Apparently not good enough for you.

Finally!

January 23rd, 2012
11:56 am

Now THIS is a story I enjoyed reading on a Monday lunch break. So sad to see there are still so many people on this blog who are unable to see the good in anything or anyone.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 23rd, 2012
12:01 pm

This is an inspiring tribute to the power of an excellent teacher who loved students. The cynics from Good Mom stated, “If cynics like Dr. Proud Black man can convince us that this story is a lie, then he and others have to face up to the fact that teachers today aren’t doing as good a job as they could do.”

This is part of the Myth of the Unmotivated Student, as written about by RiShawn Biddle in Dropout Nation: “Teachers and other adults use this idea that kids fail because they don’t want to succeed to justify their own unwillingness to create cultures if genius in which all kids can succeed — and hide their own incompetence as educators and leaders.” Malkin Dare of the Society for Quality Education has blogged on the same topic.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 23rd, 2012
12:02 pm

“…cultures [of (sic)] genius…”

Darren Crovitz

January 23rd, 2012
12:14 pm

There’s a thread to this story worth considering. Neal read what interested him, or what looked interesting. He was supported in this (albeit secretly) by a teacher. This interest led to him reading much more varied material later on and doubtless contributed to his success in life.

The importance of free voluntary reading in student development is well documented by research (as summarized by Stephen Krashen). It affects reading ability, language acquisition, and test scores much more positively than skills-based approaches. And it’s cheaper. Children of poverty often live in print-poor environments. Supporting them in developing a love of reading can be the foundation for greater things.

Michael Moore

January 23rd, 2012
12:48 pm

So how would this fit into a teacher evaluation?

To Michael Moore from Good Mom

January 23rd, 2012
1:26 pm

YOu asked a good question “So how would this fit into a teacher evaluation?”

It’s already in a teacher’s evaluation. The teachers at my child’s school are evaluated and incentified by allowing children time to go to the library and check out books. My kids love to go to the library and regularly check out any book that interests them.

Also, parents are invited to come to the classroom to read to the class. the parent chooses the book.

I remember well the book “Island of the Blue Dolphins” that my teacher recommended. I loved it. As an adult I looked back on why I liked that book so much and it occurred to me that the main character was a little girl about my age on an adventure.

There were few books back in my day that featured a girl as the main character having an adventure. Most books involved boys having the adventure. So, yes, absolutely, getting books to kids with a subject they enjoy is important and allowing kids to see themselves as the main character is important.

The subject is a frequent one in parenting meetings– how to teach kids to read. The first thing to do is create the love of reading. Read exciting stories kids can relate to and want to hear.

Good question,
Good Mother

To V for Vendetta from Good Mom

January 23rd, 2012
1:36 pm

You asked a good question ” When during the course of my day am I supposed to reach every student? I also coach a sport, sponsor a club, and am working on my third degree. And I have a wife and children.”

I am surprised you haven’t thought of the obvious — stop coaching a sport. The sport is nothing compared to your admission that you cannot reach all your students.

To Truth from Good Mom

January 23rd, 2012
2:00 pm

Hi Truth,
I appreciate your attempt to be funny but your joke fell flat. Next time, try harder.
I like to LOL (even at my own expense).
GM

V for Vendetta

January 23rd, 2012
2:21 pm

Good Mom,

Yeah, you’re right. I should stop building character and teaching kids how to lead healthy and invigorating lives. It’s not like we’re a nation of fat a$$e$ or anything.

Please. Those who so quickly dismiss the physical and mental benefits of athletics were never good enough to participate in them. I participated from elem. school all the way through D1 college. The physical exertion kept me out of trouble, kept me focused, and kept me in terrific shape. My grades reflected it. Now, if we’d just EXPECT that kind of effort from ALL of our student athletes, maybe we’d be getting somewhere.

Alex

January 23rd, 2012
2:34 pm

Good Mom, I can’t take anything you say seriously since you made that ridiculous argument that Hope Elementary was part of the APS cheating scandal. Your argument was so absurd — and yet damaging — that I’ve come to the conclusion that you have a serious character flaw. So, I dismantled your complete crap on my post today for the earlier entry “APS school chief.”

To everyone else, sorry for highjacking the comments. I just couldn’t let Good Mom get by without calling her out for unfairly smearing Hope Elementary. As you were.

Batgirl

January 23rd, 2012
2:44 pm

Like most school librarians, Ms. Grady was a teacher first, and she may have still been teaching some after she set up the library at her school. But, in this story, she was acting as the school librarian, and I am bothered that the discourse here has focused on teachers rather than librarians. We have a part to play in the education of our children, but we’re often overlooked by the general population as well as other educators. We are the ones who notice that little Olly has found an author or a genre that he likes and go out of our way to make sure he gets more (and often with our own money, too). We are the ones who make sure the library has books on a large range of topics, not just the things we’re interested in!

I love this story, but it is the librarian who is the heroine here, not a classroom teacher!

Beverly Fraud

January 23rd, 2012
2:45 pm

I hate to bring this up. But do you remember the Terry Stoddard story? The one Beverly Hall used to tell of? Turns out it was a work of fiction.

I know, kind of shocking that someone of the character and integrity, and PRESTIGE of Beverly Hall would be duped into perpetuating a FRAUD, but check out Snopes if you want to see for yourself.

Let’s hope THIS story has a little more basis in REALITY.

Dr. Proud Black Man

January 23rd, 2012
5:13 pm

@ Beverly Fraud

True. Perhaps another topic could be why educators are so enamoured of anecdotal stories.

http://www.snopes.com/glurge/teddy.asp

Maureen Downey

January 23rd, 2012
5:16 pm

@Dr. and Beverly, The difference here is that Judge Neal is the source of the story; This is not a second-hand retelling. You can listen to him tell it himself on that NPR link.
Maureen

Batgirl from Good Mom

January 23rd, 2012
7:11 pm

You are a librarian? I’m delighted. Myh child’s librarian is a gem and she does all you say a librarian does. With all the childrne in her school she somehow manages to know my children’s names and can instantly recommend books to children and recognize their interest and abilities. I love to listen to her and whenever I can steal 30 minutess or so I volunteer to shelve books for her as she has no assistants.

When I was a girl I was also the librarian’s helper. Back then in my school it was an honor. The librarian was considered “cool” and we vied for her approval. I often came home with boat loads of books because I loved to read.

She took a special interest in me and I love her for it. At a time when I was neglected by my parents she taught me how to put hairspray on my dress so that it wouldn’t cling to my legs so that I would look ladylike. She talked to me gently about how to arrange my hair and she always talked to me about school. I learned to organize things by learning the Dewey Decimal system. I have vivid fond memories of her.

The librarian at my child’s school is also well-liked by parents and kids. We appreciate her. I wish you felt the same. We really need good librarians. Thanks for posting.

To V for Vendetta from Good Mom

January 23rd, 2012
7:22 pm

V, your sarcastic comment is so very sad. You readily admit you do not have enough time in the day to reach all students, yet you choose to coach a sport instead of spending time to teach these kids — the same kids you don’t have time for.

What a very sad commentary today when you value sports over education and you say “Yeah, you’re right. I should stop building character and teaching kids how to lead healthy and invigorating lives. It’s not like we’re a nation of fat a$$e$ or anything.”

Can you not see that you can teach character building while teaching academics? A child needs an education in order to afford going to the doctor, to maintain a healthy life.

You can teach students about calories and good food choices during science class. One’s diet is just as important as exercise.

Unfortunately, V for very ignorant, your fat attitude needs to get out of the public school. You are one of the teachers that need to be weeded out. I am heartbroken for the students and parents for whom you made the decision of who is worth keeping and who isn’t.

You are not worth keeping. You need to go.

To ALex from Good Mom

January 23rd, 2012
7:32 pm

Alex, I didn’t make a ridiculous accusation about Hope elementary. I posted the facts about Hope and Toomer’s Tumor. Tumor’s Toomer had 21.4% cheating. This information came from APS. Hope, as I correctly reported had 2.8% cheating and was labeled as “cleared.” I reported both those facts accurately. My concern about Hope is the lack of a playground and I challenged you to tell me what you were doing to get a playground there. You said you were working on it and I asked you for the details.

There is an option to move many intown students from Lin and ME and SPARK to Hope for grades 3-5. I would certainly consider allowing my children to go to Hope if they got a playground there. I’m sorry you misunderstood my previous comment.

I need to make sure you understand, it’s the cheating at Toomer that I will not abide. Those teachers are still in that school. I would not ever consider sending my children there because the same teachers who allowed or participated in the cheating are still at that school. Hope was “cleared” so I am fine with that. Granted, the school is far away from me and the location is dismal but it’s the integrity and quality of the teachers that matter most.

I hope you understand now.
Good Mom

Dr. Proud Black Man

January 23rd, 2012
10:33 pm

@Good Mom

Step away from the computer mam!

Novel Ideas from Good Mother: A Novel

January 23rd, 2012
11:50 pm

@GM
Truth is stranger than fiction.
You are strange.

This is a wonderful topic. Maureen. Thanks for posting it. My story is not nearly so dramatic but I owe a lot to a couple of teachers and a nurse who helped me when I really needed it.

Thanks so much for sharing it. I would love to hear more stories like these.

Good Mom
The “lesson” we learn from this story is an important one. In this judge;’s own words:

“To me, the lesson is that while there are no silver bullets to chip away at poverty or improve national competitiveness, improving the ranks of teachers is part of the answer. That’s especially true for needy kids, who often get the weakest teachers. That should be the civil rights scandal of our time.

The implication is that we need rigorous teacher evaluations, more pay for good teachers and more training and weeding-out of poor teachers. The need for more pay is simple. In the 1950s, outstanding women like Grady didn’t have many alternatives, and they became teachers. Grady was black, so she didn’t have many options other than teaching black children in a segregated school.

Today, women like Grady often become doctors, lawyers or bankers — professions with far higher salaries. If we want to recruit and retain the best teachers, we simply have to pay more — while also more aggressively thinning out those who don’t succeed. It’s worth it.

“There are some kids who can’t be reached,” Neal acknowledges. “But there are some that you can reach every now and then.” As his life attests.”

Very well said.
Good Mom
Your comment is beautiful “the power of love to tranform.”

Yes, indeed.

GM
Your comments say that this black woman back in 1950s had an easier time teaching black students than you have today.

I think you’re very very wrong. Go do some research. My dad went to school back then and he tells me a very very different story about how the students had to chop the wood for the little stove in the school he attended and that classrooms were very crowded, so crowded, in fact that the teacher taught and when he didn’t catch on as quickly (his parents had very little education) another six year old taught him how to read as she was further along in her abilities.

Perhaps you’ve gathererd your opinions from television. Shows like “Happy days’ made things seem idealic.

Please do your research — talk to some black people who actually went to school in the 1950s….I think you might have to eat your words.
The cynics, like Dr. Proud Black Man, want us not to believe this story. They have an agenda — to escape responsibility for not teaching children what they need to know.

If cynics like Dr. Proud Black man can convince us that this story is a lie, then he and others have to face up to the fact that teachers today aren’t doing as good a job as they could do.

Dr. Black Man and Dekalbed, your pitiful agenda is as clear as Saran Wrap.
You’ve asked “Please direct me to the research that discusses the difference in difficulties students in the 1950s faced to the difficulties students today face. It sounds interesting.”

You mean you have no idea how to do research on your own? You don’t know how to use a public library? …and you call yourself a teacher?

So pitiful.
You asked “But, as others have pointed out, with diminishing resources, flimsy discipline, and overwhelming expectations, how often do you think we can reach these few diamonds in the rough?”

You will likely never know as another teacher has posted (Mary Elizabeth?) about her own experience. The point is the same, though, that teachers shouldn’t give up and decide for themselves that teaching is hopeless and when (not if but when) those teachers decide that nothing can be done, they need to leave the profession of teaching.

As the judge said “The implication is that we need rigorous teacher evaluations, more pay for good teachers and more training and weeding-out of poor teachers.”

“…more weeding-out of poor teachers.” They do exist, of course, as in every profession has rotten applies but in the teaching profession those rotten apples more often than not just stay in the barrel. To further his point, they need to be prevented from being in the profession in the first place.

Just as many teachers claim there are “bad apples” in students, more is true of “bad apples” as teachers. Students are not fully formed. Kids have a chance to turn around and have a caring and loving teacher or other adult intervene but adults, the teachers, are fully formed.

Bad apple teachers need to go — there is no hope to redeem an adult who has no hope but the same is not true for a child. We cannot throw away a child because a teacher thinks they are a bad apple. Instead, either the teacher needs to go or the child needs a different teacher.

Where there are children involved, we must always have hope and perseverence. We cannot throw away a child.
You asked a good question ” When during the course of my day am I supposed to reach every student? I also coach a sport, sponsor a club, and am working on my third degree. And I have a wife and children.”

I am surprised you haven’t thought of the obvious — stop coaching a sport. The sport is nothing compared to your admission that you cannot reach all your students.
Hi Truth,
I appreciate your attempt to be funny but your joke fell flat. Next time, try harder.
I like to LOL (even at my own expense).
GM
You are a librarian? I’m delighted. Myh child’s librarian is a gem and she does all you say a librarian does. With all the childrne in her school she somehow manages to know my children’s names and can instantly recommend books to children and recognize their interest and abilities. I love to listen to her and whenever I can steal 30 minutess or so I volunteer to shelve books for her as she has no assistants.

When I was a girl I was also the librarian’s helper. Back then in my school it was an honor. The librarian was considered “cool” and we vied for her approval. I often came home with boat loads of books because I loved to read.

She took a special interest in me and I love her for it. At a time when I was neglected by my parents she taught me how to put hairspray on my dress so that it wouldn’t cling to my legs so that I would look ladylike. She talked to me gently about how to arrange my hair and she always talked to me about school. I learned to organize things by learning the Dewey Decimal system. I have vivid fond memories of her.

The librarian at my child’s school is also well-liked by parents and kids. We appreciate her. I wish you felt the same. We really need good librarians. Thanks for posting.
V, your sarcastic comment is so very sad. You readily admit you do not have enough time in the day to reach all students, yet you choose to coach a sport instead of spending time to teach these kids — the same kids you don’t have time for.

What a very sad commentary today when you value sports over education and you say “Yeah, you’re right. I should stop building character and teaching kids how to lead healthy and invigorating lives. It’s not like we’re a nation of fat a$$e$ or anything.”

Can you not see that you can teach character building while teaching academics? A child needs an education in order to afford going to the doctor, to maintain a healthy life.

You can teach students about calories and good food choices during science class. One’s diet is just as important as exercise.

Unfortunately, V for very ignorant, your fat attitude needs to get out of the public school. You are one of the teachers that need to be weeded out. I am heartbroken for the students and parents for whom you made the decision of who is worth keeping and who isn’t.

You are not worth keeping. You need to go.
Alex, I didn’t make a ridiculous accusation about Hope elementary. I posted the facts about Hope and Toomer’s Tumor. Tumor’s Toomer had 21.4% cheating. This information came from APS. Hope, as I correctly reported had 2.8% cheating and was labeled as “cleared.” I reported both those facts accurately. My concern about Hope is the lack of a playground and I challenged you to tell me what you were doing to get a playground there. You said you were working on it and I asked you for the details.

There is an option to move many intown students from Lin and ME and SPARK to Hope for grades 3-5. I would certainly consider allowing my children to go to Hope if they got a playground there. I’m sorry you misunderstood my previous comment.

I need to make sure you understand, it’s the cheating at Toomer that I will not abide. Those teachers are still in that school. I would not ever consider sending my children there because the same teachers who allowed or participated in the cheating are still at that school. Hope was “cleared” so I am fine with that. Granted, the school is far away from me and the location is dismal but it’s the integrity and quality of the teachers that matter most.

I hope you understand now.
Good Mom

Like I said before...

January 23rd, 2012
11:55 pm

each one teach one.

To Novel from Good Mom

January 24th, 2012
8:20 am

I’m flattered you find my posts worthy enough to search for and copy and paste again but really…I think you need a better hobby ;)
GM

V for Vendetta

January 24th, 2012
8:31 am

Oh, GM . . . haha, you’re condescension is showing!

Your passion for accountability and good teaching is admirable, but you clearly display (time and time again) a complete ignorance of the profession and the skills needed to properly teach children of any age. You sound like the idealistic and ridiculous grad school students who have gone straight through their degrees without stepping foot inside an actual classroom.

“I can save anyone,” they say.

“I can reach any child,” they say.

They won’t last very long in the real world, I say. Any teacher worth his or her weight in gold must evaluate students on a daily basis, allocating his or her precious time and energy to the students who need it most–i.e., the students who can BENEFIT from it most. Sadly, not all students can benefit from what a teacher can do. Though the aforementioned story is a positive one and a good example of the transformative power of a teacher, there are literally thousands of other stories that end much worse.

And where are the parents in all of this? What responsibility do they have? They had the power to bring a child into this world, but they don’t have to measure up when it comes time to raise that child? They leave it to the schools and teachers to “save” him or her? Accountablility and personal responsibility are two traits sorely lacking in today’s society. Your attitude towards them seems somewhat backwards at times. Hold the teachers responsible for everything that someone else started? That we are talking about children is only partially relevant. Someone else created this child; then they promptly abdicated ALL responsibility in raising it. Shame on THEM.

Not shame on US.

Don't Feed the Good Mother/Good Mom Troll

January 24th, 2012
4:46 pm

@ Alex, Jan. 23, 2:34 pm. Your comments on the other blog about APS Redistricting show the serious damage that a troll can do.

“Good Mom, your comment, which you now seem to be backpedaling on was “Hope had some high probabilities of cheating as deemed by the erasure analysis but did not make the list of schools to be concerned about.” … I’m not sure what made you unfairly accuse the principal and teachers at Hope of cheating, but not for a minute will I let that stand. Members of the Hope-Hill PTA were mentioning how bewildered they were to learn there were rumors going around about how their school had been involved in the cheating scandal. Now we can all see how these ridiculous rumors may have gotten started.”

Do not feed this troll or listen to what he/she claims is true, including the fictional sob-stories about his/her life. He/she is desperately looking for attention by trying to get a rise out of fellow bloggers.