‘My Role as the Teacher’
Covington High School, an hour north of Memphis, Tenn., is a high-poverty school and as in many high-poverty schools, some students arrive carrying the burden of failure and very low expectations for themselves.
When such students confront the high expectations their teachers have for them, English teacher and instructional coach Brandi Blackley says, they will sometimes say flat out that they don’t have to learn because they’re not going to college.
She says she tells them, “Don’t shut that door before it ever opens. My role as the teacher is not to be the one helping you push that door closed but to be the one to help you open it.”
Blackley is part of the team that has helped Covington High School become recognized as one of the most improved schools in the state, with a graduation rate of 96 percent.
She and the other teachers and administrators know that for some students, they are the ones who have to help students see beyond their present circumstances and see themselves as being successful. “[Resistance to] education is sometimes for them just a mental block,” she says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with skills. They’ve set up that mental block there. They’ve closed that door. We, as teachers here at Covington High School, work hard to help them open those doors.”