Sick to my stomach

Here I am back exactly where I started.

 It is pretty frustrating. Scartch that it is infuriating. 

I left my last job to make an impact. To solve a real problem for students in real need. And after a year like the last one, one would think I would have learned or at least have a better ability to learn, but no. Right where I started. The same mistake. 

I feel like I’m running up a hill that is so steep that I can’t even get my gripping and end up right back at the same spot even after hours of running at my fastest pace. 

I must look like an idiot.  Running, but going nowhere.

And it does still boggle my mind. 

It does.

Even after YEARS of doing this. Even after years of dealing with parents and students. I need to be reminded that people don’t think based on reason or even what they see, we think based on the old.

I personally call it the “homework effect”. It’s the best way for me to explain it. Or maybe the “slaughterhouse effect” is more appropriate…maybe a bit too dramatic. But it does feel like we all watch child after child go into a hut and not come out and then send our child into that exact same hut. Why? Because that is what we do. That hut obviously is the path for children.

The lesson is that you can show science and reason (basic reason) to people and it still won’t matter. 

Not convinced? Think you are above this? Let’s talk about homework. I bet you have an opinion on that. Every parent has an opinion on homework. They may be all over the map, but opinions aplenty. I tend not to care about opinions especially when they are answers. This one is answerable. Truly. Study after study. No doubts here. We know for a FACT that homework has no effect on academic achievement nor performance for the elementary years. AND some studies show an adverse effect.

So me…you know me…puts together a lecture to declare that homework is dead. That as a data informed educator I can in good faith settle this debate. I will share the studies with the parents. Homework will finally have its day. Let the kids play!

This did not go as planned. Sure there were those who clapped. You could see the nights of screaming children crying over homework. But the majority? UPROAR. ANGER. 

Huh? It boggled my mind. Did you not hear what I said? That this isn’t really a debate? That it is fact. Homework is just busy work and not for this age important to developmental gains. Oh and don’t forget it could HARM your child! Why would you want to fill your child’s time with something that has no benefit and possibly harmful?

But I took their feedback. How it structured the child’s day. How the school’s reputation for “rigor” could be damaged. How it was good for executive skills (even though there is ZERO evidence that that is true before 6th grade). It wasn’t worth losing my job over. 

But you know me…I did not give up. 

So I reenvisioned it. What if we could create homework that had REAL educational benefits for elementary school students? I read everything I could about the flipped classroom model, everything I could about ways we could take this NEED of parents to have their kids do hours of homework and not hurt the actual kids. 

I rolled out a new model of homework. One that brought more second language input into the home looking to increase our outcomes in second language aquisition through play and leveraging technology. It was pretty exciting work. How could this go wrong?! I was giving the homework that parents demanded, but this time making sure we weren’t damaging kids!

But it looked different. Gone were the worksheets. UPROAR. ANGER.

And I put this screen shot from my book on how the brain ACTUALLY behaves to remind myself. 

And its frustrating. Why wouldn’t reason win? Maybe you have to have a child diagnosed with a life threatening disease to PRAISE science. Maybe science has to save your life like it did for Steve and Jacob to look past your opinion and study facts?

So yesterday I spent the day on the phone with gap year consultants. Yuck. Yep. I listened to them tell me their clients needs. I had to sell them on why LIFE READY is better than the hundreds of other options they have. My favorite being “Daniel” whose dad has multiple wives and he is rebelling by living with his Aunt in a masion in Tuscany. And that it will be a hard sell to the family, because it is clear that the faculty is “liberal.” I felt nauseous. I was right where I started. Right back in that office talking to parents and convince them on facts.

And not just any parents and students. So far our applicants to LIFE READY are from the .01%. All from the .01%. All the kids who have always had this advantage. Now I’m just another “program” in the mix. Another option. Sure I feel confident that i’m a better option with real research and educators making decisions to solve real issues, but this was NOT the reason I started Mind the Gap. 

I started Mind the Gap to change the bigger picture. The FAIL.The fact that only 14% of our college graduates succeed (and we all know where most of that 14% come from).  

Sure I can blame COVID for this failure. I could. But that’s not it. Its basic human nature that I’m going against. 

I remember when I visited a charter school in the Bronx a few years ago. Most students at this school qualified for free lunch. I was invited to a 2nd grade assembly and as part of their ritual they began with a chant. “College bound! College bound!” That was the dream. That was the metric of success even when we knew that most of the students would never make it and if they did they would be riddled with debt. 

I again forgot that it doesn’t matter. That the human brain will trudge on with its inputs and those inputs are formed by an education MACHINE. A profitable MACHINE. And you, the parent, that is scared shitless to mess this up. To challenge the norm. That this gift will be met with opposition, which it has. 

And I failed. I did. I missed the mark. I should have known this. 

Failing is not easy.

And I know (I hear you…) you did not fail Abby, but let’s be clear, this isn’t “success either.” LIFE READY is not hitting the students we want to hit. Our price point isn’t where it needs to be. 

I got it wrong.

But just annoyed that this is a reoccurring event. Every time the same lesson. The same mistake.

And here I am. 

Back where I started. Dealing with white rich kid problems. The 1% of the data and I’m sick to my stomach about it. SICK. 

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