What can parents do to encourage activism in their kids??
We don’t punish and hyper test in order to spur someone’s creativity. What inspired you at school? Parents should ask themselves that. I think parents need to be vigilant with their child. That child deserves to be educated as a growing human being. They are not data points. They are children. Speak to your local assemblyperson. Write to the Regents. The more parents can speak for the humanity and uniqueness of their own children, the more that voice can be heard.
Where do you envision the students whom you write about in the book in 10 years’ time? You were particularly taken by Mignon, a recent émigrée and ELL student whose nascent English meant she kept having to retake her Regents. What is your prescription for these types of issues?
I wanted Mignon’s voice to be heard. How do we address these students? We send them out into the world thinking they are a failure, so what is she going to be? Is she going to be abused? Is she going to get a job? She should be able to tell her story—the war in her home country. This would make her feel good about herself and want to learn more. How will students such as Mignon move forward? They deserve a motivated teacher, not someone who tests you and tests you and makes you feel like you’re a failure. Kids deserve to be accepted for who they are, instead of having the system stamp them out based on some superficiality.
You call yourself an “edu-tainer”—why? Do you think more teachers need to take on that role?
Emphatically not. Professional educators are taught that there is a great diversity in the way kids learn. If everyone were like me it would be a complete disaster. It only works if the teachers come in with their own style and work in their own way. You do still want those teachers who never smile, who are serious. You want teachers who are committed to their students, teachers who really want the kids to learn and are dedicated to that, whether it’s by doing hip-hop rhymes or by being stern.
Would you encourage people to join the NYC teaching profession?
I’m an optimist. And I love kids. But I came across a lot of challenges. That said… yes, be a teacher! Go in there and be creative. Vibrational energy is everything. If you can keep yourself from complaining and resisting and instead go into the higher energy that says, “something may happen here, I have something to give every day,” then be a teacher. Because when you give that, you get so much back.