The projector wasn't always working well, I messed up the timing a couple times, made some kids late to brunch and 3rd period, logistics
been better, but I think I brought it.
I show em this. There's three stat
es on this map, California, Arizona, Nevada, maybe some of Oregon. And that gold star? That's us. That's you. And those white stars? Those are the schools and districts that have come here, here,
to watch how you learn, how your teachers teach, how your principals principal. They came here from all over for you.
Then I show them some data from 2002, that shows us at 502 API, 8% proficient, the lowest middle school in the county and district. I pull up ten volunteers and have them stand in front of chairs. We operationalize proficient as being able to stand up to anyone and say I understand everything I am supposed to understand. Ask me anything, teach me anything, cuz I'm ready. Then I make nine volunteers sit down. You take ten kids in 2002, I say, and only one of them can stand up say they know what they're supposed to know.
If our school was
a car in 2002, we'd be this:
Why are people coming from all over California to see our school when we looked like this? I wouldn't walk across the street to look at the car. So why are they coming?
We got better.
I ask them to tell me what a myth is. Then I tell them about The Donut Lady, this potentially fictional woman who once told one of our teachers how sad and unfortunate it was to have to work in east 408 schools. I told them how The Donut Lady and people like her don't believe that you can be strong and powerful and excellent if you're a Latino or Asian kid from our neighborhood, how those people believe you are violent, sad people doomed to failure. The Donut Lady believes a myth about you, I tell them, but here's the thing: Some kids believe it, too. Those kids who walk around and say we're ghetto, we don't do work, we fight, we're lazy, and that's just who we are so why change it. Those kids believed a myth, too, and they did it because they were scared to show how amazing all of you really are. It's scary to be amazing, I say, scary to show all the amazing each of you has inside.
The kids scoff a little at this one, make some grumbling noises. No, no, no, I say. This is better. We can take this on the highway, take it down to Santa Cruz, dive on rocks if we want. You want rims? We gotta work harder. You want a hot little sports car? You want to be an Escalade? We gotta work harder.
I show em all this, talk about defying the myth, do the thing with the chairs, and show how now we can get those same ten kids and almost five of them can stand up and say I know what I need to know. I do all of this, and then I put up a slide with two words in 94 pt font.
You didn't do this, I say. You were in kinder, in 1st grade, in 2nd grade. You were learning how to subtract without using your fingers and doing that thing where you turn your card to yellow when you don't work hard. Your brothers and sisters and cousins came through here and said I don't feel like that crappy car, I know I've got something better. They stood in the quad and shouted worst to first and then they went into their classrooms and did something about it. You didn't, and that's why I say big deal. Because that's the past. I want to know about the future. What are you going to do? What do you want to be? What mark will you leave?
I show them two more car pictures -- a beat-up hippie van, and a hot silver Mustang smoking down the street -- and say, nothing is set in stone. We can go in either direction, and it's really up to you. What do you want to do? For the 8th grade assembly I thrown up another 94 pt slide.
12 more weeks.
This freaks them out. What will you do? How do you want things to end here? Then I show them the huge posters we've made. Here's the challenge. Here's what you need to bring.
No one here will make you do it. No one wants to make you. Forget it. Save that garbage. That's baby. Do you want it? Then go get. Sign your name and show everyone you are ready to step up because you want something better, because you know you've got something amazing inside you and you're tired of keeping it small and hidden.
For the 8th grade, I say, who has the courage to step up right now, in front of everyone? Who can walk across the room and sign this right now?
And a dozen kids fly out of their seats and reach for the markers in my hand.