In support of the millage

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I thought I’d let one of my fellow teachers speak for me when it comes to the millage. Jon Medders recently penned his thoughts on Facebook using an inspiring and touching story. Read on.

As a teacher at Fayetteville High School, I am writing to share an anecdote that illustrates my thoughts about the new FHS.

Last week a new student walked into my classroom. The first thing I noticed was a wide smile. “I think I’m in your class,” the new student said. I welcomed the young man, directed him to a seat, and was intrigued to see his smile grow bigger as he sat down and met a few of his new classmates.

Over the next couple days, this student, “Derrick” (not his real name), shared details from his life that have helped me understand why he was smiling so widely. Derrick’s family had just moved to Fayetteville from a poor district of a big city; their main reason for leaving was all the crime in their neighborhood. Derrick reads at about a 4th grade level. He has heard that Fayetteville High School is a good school, and he is interested in learning and improving.

Hence the smile.

I’m smiling, too. I know from experience that any student who believes he can improve, and is willing to work at it, can make amazing progress. But I also know that if my colleagues and I are going to help Derrick gain the skills he needs to break out of generational poverty, it’s going to take everything we’ve got. Even then, it’s going to take quite a bit of luck.

So the question I’ve asked myself is this: Would the new FHS improve Derrick’s chances of turning his life around? My conclusion, for the following reasons, is yes.

Right now, though I know Derrick has six other teachers who are joining this fight, it is extremely difficult for me to confer with them about his needs and abilities. Unlike the highly successful middle schools in town, we at the high school currently have neither the time nor the infrastructure to have those types of discussions.

A concept called smaller learning communities (SLCs) are at the heart of the new FHS. If SLCs were in place now, I would be able to regularly meet with Derrick’s other teachers. I, an English teacher, could advise his biology teacher, for example, on ways to help him write more effective hypotheses and conclusions. She, meanwhile, could give me insights on the best grouping options for Derrick when he works with peers.

The new Fayetteville High School won’t have hallways paved of gold. It won’t have marble columns, video arcades, or expensive art. What it will have is the space and flexibility necessary to transform our massive school into smaller learning communities where teachers and students all know each other. Would the new FHS increase the odds for Derrick to live a successful and happy life? Yes. Would it also help those who are already achieving to achieve more? Absolutely. When teachers share knowledge, skills, and resources with each other, good things happen.

When you go to vote on Tuesday, think about your own family first. Ask yourself if the benefits that you, your children, and grandchildren will reap are worth the ten to twenty dollars a month you will pay if you own a home. But also, sometime on Tuesday, think of Derrick. Think of his hopeful smile. And think of all of us who are teaching our hearts out to help that smile stay there.

Jon Medders

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences, Jon.

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2 thoughts on “In support of the millage

  1. This story, as a previous teacher in a middle school setting… and a Fayetteville High School Alumni… brought tears to my eyes. It is so good to know that our teachers still care to ensure that we all learn and grow and have a chance to break out of generational poverty… Just like I did. 🙂 You are a role model for all Educators.

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