I've been reading this post and these comments over at From The Trenches of Public Ed. - fascinating stuff. I agree with the original post in many ways; teaching is a job that everyone thinks is easy. You get those long summers! You only work until three o'clock every day! Those who can't do, teach! I've seen quite a few friends change their tune a little bit about teaching when they got into the classroom and saw it's not quite as easy as it looks.
The comments were interesting, too, and I found myself agreeing with some of what was said on both "sides" of the argument. I think it's much too simplistic to say, as one commenter does, that "It wasn't the poverty or lack of utilities that caused the under-achievement, it was the under-achievement of all the educators who under-taught and under-served those students before they entered Jane's classroom." (Someone identifying himself as TMAO is responding to Jane, who commented on the difficult home situations her students have. She said that some of them don't have electricity at home, hence the reference to utilities.)
I've been reflecting a lot on the relationship between the home backgrounds kids have and their ability to succeed in school. I know my situation is quite different from that of most of the teachers commenting, because not only do I not teach in a public school, but I don't even teach in the United States. However, tomorrow I'm going to be visiting a local "Tecwilian" school. The students there won't come from homes with electricity, or homes that own books, or even, in some cases, homes with literate parents. The teachers are expected to have completed the grade above the one they are teaching. And there aren't political bodies overseeing what's being done in this school - in some schools in this country, there aren't even enough pencils to go around.
Of course kids' background matters. Of course their home life matters. Of course it's not all the fault of the teacher they had last year if a child can't learn easily. And I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to any of these problems, either in the United States or in this country.
Maybe I'll have some reflections to post after tomorrow's visit.
6 hours ago