You have the right to fail.

I teach in an economically depressed area. There is a lot of poverty, and a lot of crime. Our community has been identified as one of the most miserable places to live in the United States. We are near the top in auto thefts too. Want to talk foreclosures? Stockton is near the top there also. There is lots of bad press about this community, and it seems to build on itself. I see it in the students I work with. I frequently will hear things like “Hey, we’re from Stockton, we’re supposed to be ghetto.” Obviously this has an impact on the classroom.

Don’t get me wrong, we have successful kids. We are only putting out our second graduating class at our high school, but both of the classes have kids going on to trade schools, community colleges, and four year public and private schools. Its the other kids I worry about. And we have a lot of them. Kids that come to school every day. They go to all of their classes, but they do nothing. They can occasionally be coaxed into doing an assignment or two, so I believe they actually can read and write. But they really have no desire to be successful in school, and so they don’t try. And their test scores reflect that- far below basic.

There seems to be a general consensus that students have the right to fail. But that needs to change. Society provides a lot of resources so that each student can be in school. When we have the attitude that students have the right to fail, those resources are just wasted. And the attitude is contagious. If Johnny can fail, why can’t I? As long as we think it is the students’ right to fail, they will. I do not think they have that right. It is time to change that mindset.

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