A reader emailed me in response to my story today about an oral history project in which youth interview older men in three neighborhoods as part of “Crossing Fences,” a Saturday Light Brigade program paid for by the Heinz Endowment’s African-American Men and Boys Initiative.
Cathie Huber is a retired teacher who serves as a volunteer tutor to four elementary school classes in remedial math and reading. She commented that the young men in the “Crossing Fences” program are a fortunate few who get the chance to learn and be steered by strong, purposeful elders.
“Sadly, it’s likely that the youth who need the intervention most will not have been the ones to participate,” she wrote.
Although there were at-risk youth who were tapped for the “Crossing Fences” project, she makes a broader point and, even better, asks for help from other retired teachers.
I’ll let her make her case to all the retired teachers who read my blog which, I know, is a drop in the bucket but we are told that every drop counts, so here’s Cathie to take it away:
“I wish more retired teachers would get involved. It’s a small amount of time involved, and the kids really need the help. If there is anything you can do to promote some sort of help for these kids to get them turned around, settled down, and pointed in the right direction, it will have far-ranging benefits!
“A significant percentage” of the children she tutors “do not demonstrate that they have any idea what they are there for. They are rude and disruptive and have the teachers at their wit’s end. The teachers have no aides, rooms that are extremely rich learning environments, they care deeply about the kids and have a tremendous amount of material to cover in a year’s time.
“They are really trying hard, but seem to be fighting an uphill battle. It is so frustrating to see how the kids who do settle down and focus are being deprived of the teachers’ well-presented but constantly interrupted lessons because of these disruptive other kids.”
“These primary grade children are supposed to be building a foundation for their future academic and social lives. They are way, way behind by the time they reach the age of the young people in your article. Oasis provides mentors to a few children, but they need more.”