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'The Road Out' of Poverty Begins With Great Teachers


Society & Culture  (tags: americans, children, child, culture, dishonesty, education, ethics, family, freedoms, government, humans, arts, rights, sadness, society, usa, safety )

JL
- 568 days ago - takepart.com
In her new book, author Deborah Hicks shares the compelling and heartbreaking stories of teaching girls in a white Appalachian ghetto.



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JL A. (275)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 11:39 am

‘The Road Out’ of Poverty Begins With Great Teachers
In her new book, author Deborah Hicks shares the compelling and heartbreaking stories of teaching girls in a white Appalachian ghetto.
By Jenny Inglee
February 8, 2013
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‘The Road Out’ of Poverty Begins With Great Teachers
Deborah Hicks' new book exposes the extreme stress girls in poverty face across America. (Photo c/o University of California Press)

In a rundown Appalachian town, Deborah Hicks once dreamed of an education that would take her far away from the life she knew. She was a precocious little girl who was angry about the harsh poverty that surrounded her.

Despite not receiving a strong education at her local public school, she had the grit and determination that would eventually get her out. Hicks studied to become a teacher, and when she got her degree, she set out to help girls who grew up as she did.

In her beautiful and tragic book, The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America, Hicks chronicles this journey.
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After taking a teaching job in Cincinnati at a local university, she stumbled upon a severely poor community that used to be a "haven for southern white migrants from Appalachia in the postwar decades."

It was in the early 2000s and as she drove into the neighborhood, she knew this is where she needed to teach.

The predominately white community, Hicks said in an interview, had the feeling of "a ghetto." Buildings were boarded up, houses were falling apart, and people on the street corners were passing drugs back and forth. The poverty, she said, "was striking."

Hicks started teaching and was deeply impacted by one little girl in particular. Born with drugs in her system, Blair was very small for her age and struggled with the stress of a tumultous home life.

Despite this, Hicks said, the nine-year-old's eyes expressed "toughness, spirit, and most of all, precociousness."

Right away, she knew that "unless someone stepped in and supported Blair, she was going to have problems." There was simply too much working against her.

Hicks created an afterschool and summer school class for Blair and other young girls. The class focused on literature and storytelling, but went far beyond the words the girls read on the page. The girls opened up about their lives and forged lasting relationships with each other, and their teacher.

In The Road Out, Hicks writes about these early years in the classroom and then segues into her return to the community when the girls turned 16.

When she revisited them, she said, they each still wanted to be successful in school but just weren't getting the education they needed. Sadly, Blair and a few other girls ended up dropping out before they ever got their high school diploma.
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What caused the girls to dropout, Hicks said, had to do with the stress outside of school and the schools themselves.

"In the poorest schools in America," Hicks passionately said, "there just isn't the opportunity and the level of engaged teaching and counseling that students really need to attach themselves to school."

Another issue was the standardized tests they had to take. "Speaking as a teacher, working on the ground with these students, the tests actually made things worse," she said.

"The teachers," Hicks said, "felt they had to focus on the test and in the end, it really hurt the students."

Although Blair didn't graduate, she's still determined to get her diploma, as are the other girls. What was striking, Hicks said, was they did not want to give up.

If girls like Blair are to get the education they need and deserve, Hicks said, it must start at the top.

She said: "Addressing the glaring and extreme needs of poor and working class kids so they can have the same opportunity of privileged kids has to become a national priority."
 

Autumn S. (148)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:54 pm
Thanks, J. L.
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 2:10 pm
You are welcome Autumn!
 

Lin Penrose (92)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 3:35 pm
Thanks J.L. Unfortunately, the road out of poverty (according to who?) often leads to the road of more consumers of unrealistic & materialist ideals that our earth simply cannot provide any longer, and now is in great debt thanks we humans ideals of survival needs. Me, as an example, I would like to have free Wi-Fi !
 

Kit B. (276)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 3:44 pm

Tragic and so true. We all know that the truth is that to lift people out of this doom of generational poverty it takes excellent teachers, helpful and cooperative parents, good, clean schools with a reasonable balance to teacher to student ratio. All the things we are not doing for our students. Potential teachers are running away from today's classrooms.
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 3:52 pm
You are welcome Lin and thank you for reminding us about a possible consequence.You cannot currently send a star to Lin because you have done so within the last week.
Excellent analysis Kit! You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.
 

Thomas P. (468)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 5:04 pm
Thanks J.L. Has anyone noticed the Exxon commercials about investing in education that talk about "Let's solve this," which go on to list some of the dismal performances of American students vs. students from the rest of the world. My point is, how does Exxon expect to "solve this," by supporting Republican/Tea Party candidates whose aim is to dismantle state and federal governments, attack and break unions (including and especially teachers' unions), and by supporting candidates for the highest elected office who aren't convinced that smaller classrooms lead to better results? It is a great way for a company to hitch its public relations wagon to a great cause, while behind the scenes spending tens of millions of dollars supporting those who would do exactly the opposite of what the company's ads claim is its mission.
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 5:08 pm
You are welcome Thomas. Thank you for your excellent analysis of the hypocritical dynamics at work on this issue with the Exon example (do they have a subsidiary running charter schools or providing on-line classes?).
 

Terry V. (30)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 5:31 pm
Let's remember the parents too.Many of them need good parenting skills.

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 5:42 pm
Great reminder Terry! Thanks for the link to the wonderful, topical two minute video demonstrating what you mean! You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last week.
 

Ben Oscarsito (335)
Monday February 11, 2013, 7:00 am
"Education is the most powerful weapon wich can be used for World change"
(Nelson Mandela)
http://www.theliteracysite.com/
 

JL A. (275)
Monday February 11, 2013, 12:00 pm
Thanks for the great quote and the link Ben! You cannot currently send a star to Ben because you have done so within the last week.
 
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