Who's Columbus? What's an index? Where is Portugal? These questions are ordinary enough, but they are ones that 6th through 8th graders should have the answers to. Or they should at least be able to find the answer if they don't know them. I am continually horrified by the inadequacy of these children's education.
There is no one person to blame for this, but the devestating fact is that there are thousands of children in our inner-city schools who are being systematically trampled under our mandated standardized testing and poor funding management. The fact is that there are a plethora of reasons for this injustice; it is complicated and messy and it is an issue that when people aren't expereincing it first hand they would rather not be bothered by it.
We don't have the staff or the funds to run a full-scale tutoring program and the fact is that a once-a-week tutoring program is merely a drop in the bucket. So, I decided to try something else instead. Our kids' reading comprehension is dismal, their exposure to the world is limited. I can't teach them everything but perhaps I can help them learn how to learn?
Last week we talked about Ferdinand Magellan and his voyage around the world. I split the kids into two groups and sent them on a scavanger hunt of sorts for information about him and his accomplishments. As we sat around helping them pick out the important details and teaching them how to use an index I saw real excitement on their faces. They all scrambled to pick up their notes and share what they had discovered when the time came. And they even looked fairly interested when I went over the Word of the Day: expedition. I couldn't believe it. One of our young girls who is 15 in the 8th grade and has serious emotional and learning struggles and who often falls into extreme mood swings came through the door and I cringed thinking she would not be able to keep up and cause problems...her face was alight with the victory of learning. She stood proud with her notes during the oral presentation with the rest.
This week we talked a little about Vincent Van Gogh. After a short powerpoint presentation, to which they were mostly paying attention we painted our own Van Gogh paintings. I want to open a little of the world to these kids and give them a few more tools with which they can fight for their future. So far it's been a lot of work for a total of 3 hours, but seeing those kids standing in front of the group eagerly sharing their historical discoveries, or having a good time painting a classic post-impressionist piece of art makes it all worth it.
Please pray for our youth as they struggle with so many things. Pray that first and foremost God will grab hold of their hearts as we share the gospel with them. And secondly, pray for their school and family situations, as the majority of both are leaving them without the tools they need to be succesful in life.