Connections: A Second Chance
Maybe because such kids, given the right set of circumstances at the right moment, can bounce back, as the article by Debra Viadero in this month's research section (beginning on page 20) makes clear. A growing body of research suggests that a fair number of children touched by adversity actually fare reasonably well in the long run. And researchers have been able to pinpoint a few factors that they believe contribute to this resiliency. They include a caring, competent adult--often not a parent but a teacher or mentor--and a school program that offers individualized instruction to accommodate children of varying abilities. Recovery High offers strong doses of both. What's more, studies indicate that many youngsters who prove resilient have, as one researcher put it, "a knack for finding an environment that's good for their own development.'' Even though the students at Recovery High may have wandered down "the wrong path,'' most have sought out the school to save themselves. "I needed to get help,'' one student told Hill. "And seeing how this was basically a school for addicts to recover, I knew this was probably the only place I could do that.'' This teenager, it seems, is back on the right path or at least heading in the right direction.
When we asked teacher-educator William Ayers to recommend a book for our summer reading list (which begins on page 38), he picked the novel A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines, about a teacher in the segregated South who has been asked by a family friend to teach her godson, a convicted murderer, "to be a man before he dies.'' Ayers is talking about all teachers when he writes: "The critical message of the teacher to the student is this: You can change your life. Whoever you are, wherever you've been, whatever you've done, the teacher invites you to a second chance, another round, perhaps a different conclusion. The teacher posits possibility, openness, and alternative. The teacher points to what could be but is not yet. And the teacher beckons you to change your path. So there is but one basic rule: to reach.''
Ayers could be writing about Recovery High. Some children in our public schools are destined to succeed no matter what teachers do. But many others--including those who trip and fall or wander off the straight and narrow path--need to be reached. Programs like the one at Recovery High School should be emulated, not shut down. Who knows? Maybe the Albuquerque school board will change its mind, dig deep into its pockets, and give Recovery High and its students a second chance.
--Blake Hume Rodman
Teacher Magazine editor Ronald A. Wolk is on leave.