Relationship building is key to fixing education

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I appreciated the perspective of Tony Norman’s column about the factors contributing to student success in our schools (“Biggest Gap in Black Kids’ Learning: Parents,” Feb. 18). From reading Mr. Norman’s columns over the years I am conscious of his awareness of the complexities of most social issues. Clearly he recognizes that the issues faced by the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and probably most school districts of major American cities, are the result of myriad factors, the viciousness of poverty being the most glaring. There are no simple solutions to such complexities.

Mr. Norman was identifying the misguided notion, amplified by such organizations as A+ Schools and academicians such as professors Amanda Godley and Ashley Woodson (“Vulnerable Students Need High-Quality Teachers,” Feb. 26 letters), that the problem is poor teachers. My hat goes off to the hundreds of teachers in the schools who work, on a daily basis, with youngsters from kindergarten through high school in the Pittsburgh schools.

Professors Godley and Woodson’s call for addressing the needs of the “most vulnerable and underserved students” is shallow when it focuses on the blame-the-teacher mindset. They, more than most, should recognize that there is no “silver bullet.” The focus for improving the education and, in the long run, the lives of the children of Pittsburgh should be as broad and complex as the problem.

Good practices and good relationships must begin early in the education process. Preschool and early elementary school experiences are crucial. In these formative years the connectedness between parents (primary care givers, often parents) and educators (principals, teachers and counselors) is so very important. Building relationships is better than blaming one side or the other. The PPS and such ad hoc groups as A+ Schools would do well to listen to the experiences and thoughts of the teachers, who are in the classrooms every day with the “vulnerable and underserved” youngsters, as well as to those from the ivory towers of academia.

North Side

The writer is a retired public school teacher.

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