Jennifer De Lapp
Education Reform &Hope
I heard a lot of negatives brought up in a podcast I heard today and from my work and many others' across multiple disciplines, I have a lot of ideas for how to address and move forward from these, rather than endlessly repeating them, unaccompanied by ideas to consider. We are all very aware of so much that is "wrong" at every level, inherent in a system that is designed to ensure all students fit in the same exact box and that those who don't, are discarded as efficiently as possible. However, there are also many of us working towards solutions at every level. We may all come at the problems from different angles but perhaps cooperation and collaboration while still coming at the systemic issues from many sides will empower us all and bring hope back into education. The loss of hope is a mortal wound for those involved, just as it is for our students, and must be a focal point in change actions. We have the knowledge, backed by research, but it rarely reaches educational practice. Bridging that gap, which has only widened in recent years, is a task for us all. Believing in everyone's basic desire for efficacy, we must use what we know works with the most difficult to reach students and apply the same practices to adults who feel under siege. And, having worked with the most traumatized, academically-"lagging" students who have experienced discrimination and hardship their whole lives in high school special education, I can say from experience that no child is lost to us as long as they are still coming through our doors. I've brought back too many kids in high school whom others believed were lost causes, to agree with the assessment that if we havent reached them before middle school it's hopeless. Neuroscientific research in neuroplasticity would also provide evidence this is not an accurate statement. Our words and our trustworthiness, our unequivocal belief in every child's ability to grow and succeed and unconditional love for who they are in the exact moment we meet them, and never withdrawing those, no matter the severity of mistakes our children may make...under those conditions, we can use our effective and diverse instructional and intervention strategies on all levels of education to reach every kid. That is hope. And I plan on giving teachers and teacher educators the chance to reflect on the need for their own personal work and teach them the knowledge, skills and abilities they truly require to bring this hope to fruition. Optimistic realism, a borrowed term that reflects exactly what we need. And I plan to continue to operate with the assumption that hope is never lost unless everyone gives up. There are a lot of us fighting to make things right because we will never give up on our kids. Any of them.