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Inspiring Teens

New Graduates Thank PBA and GivingPoint

Recent Atlanta Public Schools Graduates thank PBA and GivingPoint for giving them the opportunity to excel during their high school years.

Getting Teens to Talk

on Mon, 08/12/2013 - 6:21pm

Have you ever asked, "How was your day?", and received the response, “Good.”? If you’re like most parents, when you ask your child a question, you receive the same one word answer, and the conversation is over.  Asking open ended questions is one way to learn about your child’s day, it gets your child to use more than one-word answers, and encourages them to think.

When children are young, they are very curious, and don’t care that you know what they don’t know.  They ask questions all of the time and, in many instances, they talk all of the time!  But somewhere around 6th, 7th or 8th grade, that changes.  The questions decrease, and the answers to adult questions shrink.  More one-word answers are given, and often as an adult you may feel like it’s a bother for them to talk.

In a classroom, as well as at home, open-ended questions encourage creative thinking, problem-solving, written expression and communication skills. Some open-ended questions and question starters are:

  1. What do you think about…?

  2. What did you like most about the movie?

  3. What else can you do?

  4. What if we…?

  5. What made you happy today? or,

  6. If you could be principal, what would you do?

Begin asking open-ended questions about your child’s future. Even if they don’t answer, they may begin to think about it.  Of course, there is the all too familiar question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Often, followed by the same response, “I don’t know.”   However, if you start with a conversation about an interesting career or even talking about your work-day and your career, your child may talk more.

Teachers are typically very good at asking open-ended questions. However, many complain that students don’t know how to answer them, or to fully express a thought or describe a concept. Good questioning skills may be difficult to learn. But, if you ask the right questions in the right way, you can help your child express ideas they may not realize they have.

Helping children learn how to express themselves in words, is very beneficial at home and in school, and can begin with a simple statement, Tell me about your day, instead of a question, How was school today? The earlier they begin talking about their future, the better.  As children get older, it’s important to keep them talking. 

The Mis-Education of Black Boys

on Thu, 08/08/2013 - 3:12pm

Do you like to take road trips?  I come from a family with a long history of taking yearly road trips.  Although my husband was not a "road tripper" when we met, he has learned to appreciate them.  As I am typing, we are returning from our most recent trip.  

During this trip, I had a chance to catch up on my reading.  In my stack of books, magazines and periodicals was the July edition of Ebony magazine.  Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to read the May and June editions, but my interest has been sparked enough to find and read them soon.  The July edition of Ebony Magazine features part three of a series called "Saving Our Sons."  This part is titled, "The Mis-Education of Black Boys."

When I first read the title, of course it reminded me of the book, by Carter G. Woodson, that I have read many times, "The Mis-Education of the Negro."  However, I was most pleased to see that we are moving from thinking of students as not being educated, to understanding that many are being educated, just not to the extent that the realization of their full potential is the outcome.  

I know you are wondering why I am telling you about this article, in a magazine that you may or may not read.  The reason I decided to write about it is because it is universal.  Although the title specifies "Black boys," I know that you can take the face off the student, and much of the information will pertain.  It may be more prevalent in some races, but school failure crosses them all.

The first sentence in this article caused me to put the magazine down for a while.  I needed to have time to contemplate how I really felt about what it said, before I continued reading.  The article opens with this sentence, "If you set out to purposely design a system to ensure the gradual destruction of Black boys, you couldn't do much better than the American public school system."   Can’t say I agree with that sentence. However, I can understand why some people believe this, but what an indictment on the institution of public education.   The article goes on to tell you that in many large urban school districts, Black boys unable to read on grade level exceed 90 percent. Thank goodness, the article also talks about positives in education, and ways to turn the negatives into positives, part of the problem being the lack of execution, instead of innovation.  

As an educator who has been around a large number of students from many backgrounds, I know that there are so many students who need our help.  Many students fail to reach the end of their public education rainbow, graduation, for many reasons.  I challenge you NOT to take this information and determine that the academic destruction of certain students is inevitable, but to take this information and determine what you are going to do to help alleviate the problem.  There are many ways you can help change the outcome for so many students.   Here are a few.

  1. Mentoring is one of the best ways you can help.   If you are a parent, start with your own child.  Find out what he needs and make sure he gets it.  If you are a teacher, make sure you know the students who are struggling or at risk of school failure.  Make it your mission to do everything you can to make your students academically successful.  Don't let a child's failure be because you did not do your absolute best.
  2. Talk to parents about opportunities available for their children, especially if opportunities, such as tutoring, materials, after school activities, college road- trips, etc., are free.
  3. Help students develop goals and strive to reach them.  Help them learn how to remove obstacles to their success.
  4. If you can, teach students and parents how to advocate for themselves. 
  5. Give a child a book.  (This includes high school students.)  Don't just give them any book.  Make sure that it's a book they can read on their own; it's relevant to their lives; and will interest them enough to read it.  You read the book too, and ask them questions.  Form your own book club.

Please take the information in this blog as a call for action.  Just because something is statistical today, doesn't mean it has to be statistical tomorrow.  We can't go "back to the future," but we can ensure that the reading rate is changed from 90 percent who can't, to more than 90 percent who can.  We can help change the graduation rate to more then 90 percent
who receive a diploma in 4 years.  We can help ensure that all students who want to go to college, can go to college.  We can help hold educators and policy makers accountable for the effectiveness of all schools.  There are so many things we can do to improve public education in our district, our city, our state and the country, but we have to start now.  Our children can't wait any longer!

"We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us.  We already know more than we need, in order to do this.  Whether we do it must finally depend upon how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far." Ron Edmonds

From the desk of Dr. Lori

Solving the Dropout Crisis: John Lipkins

Atlanta Public School Coach,  John Lipkins tries to inspire students to find a way, perhaps through sports, to get into higher education.  He says that if you show kids that you care and approach them in a positive way, they will likely listen to you.   He recently spoke at the American Graduate Community Forum in Atlanta.  John says that we should try to get teens into a ethics, morals and respect class.  He encourages kids to work hard and choose friends wisely.

Solving the Dropout Crisis: Marcia Jackson

Atlanta Public Schools Language Arts Teacher, Marcia Jackson, has over 15 years of teaching experience. She also has a degree in Journalism. Marcia recently spoke at the American Graduate Community Forum in Atlanta. Marcia says that our area parents don't have the resources to send their kids to school ready to learn.  Students need to come to school well nourished.  They need to be able to show respect.  She says that the graduation coach is helping kids from falling through the cracks and that needs to continue.  Also, school psychologists are needed at every school, everyday.

How to Succeed with Limited Life Experiences

on Mon, 07/01/2013 - 3:15pm

In 1833, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in Ulysses:

I am a part of all I have met; yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untraveled world....

I first heard this quote, almost 20 years ago, recited by one of my very special mentors.  I have never forgotten it and tried to apply it to my teaching, and to teachers whom I meet and train.

We often think that providing classroom instruction and making sure that students master what the curriculum dictates is enough.  However, we forget about those students who come to us with virtually no experiences.  

We forget about those students who answer an old standardized test question, "Who do we go to to fix our teeth?," with the answer, "I don't know.," because they only go to the dentist to get their teeth pulled.  Or the student who answers the question, "What happens to a piece of ice when you hold it in your hand?," with the response, "Your hand gets cold.," because they have never held a piece of ice in their hand long enough for it to melt, or for that matter never participated in a science experiment.  What about the student who all of a sudden gets sick when asked to share what he did for summer vacation, because he didn't do anything?  He didn't travel anywhere.  He didn't experience anything, new.

If students are a part of all that they  have met, and they haven't met much or many, their worlds are not as big as students who have experienced more or much.  Yet, these students are expected to bring some experiences, interpreted in the academic realm as knowledge, with them when they enter school and throughout their academic career.  Most curriculums are written with the expectation that students are building upon what they already know. Unfortunately, too many children come to school without what we call "background knowledge."  It is not that they are not as smart as students who have experienced more.  They just have not had the opportunity to have those same experiences and build their knowledge base, and it shows up in their academic skills and their ability to grasp and generalize new information.

When I was growing up in Chicago, my father used to say that one of the problems with more young people being able to obtain more than their parents and create a better life for themselves is because they have not met better.  They don't know what better looks like.  The part that they have met is not that large.  It didn't make sense to me then, but it definitely does now.

Many children come to school with few experiences, and it is up to us to help them catch up.  We have to encourage them to read something on a daily basis, and we have to encourage this practice to continue throughout high school and life.  We must tell students about our experiences, travels, books we have read, people we have met, in detail.   Paint a picture for them of your travels.  Help them be a part of all that you have met, vicariously, until they can have the same experiences.  Give them a hunger for more.

Many economically disadvantaged children who grow up to become prominent, productive pillars of society, or successful in their own right, often describe a yearning for more.  They had a vision of what their life could be, or they knew what it would be if they did not expand their horizon.  Instead of considering Johnny to be, "poor little Johnny," because he cannot experience what other children can, give him those experiences, better yet, go through the experience with him.

Helping children get to the cap and gown, means more than making sure they attend class and master the curriculum.  A lot of our students need more.  They need you.

Dr. Lori

Solving the Dropout Crisis: Kevin "Khao" Cates

Multi-platinum music producer, Kevin "Khao" Cates, is the founder of "Bridge DA (Developing Academics) Gap", a youth development movement that uses an innovative approach to reach students and teach life skills in today’s socially challenged environment. Keven recently spoke at the American Graduate Community Forum in Atlanta. Kevin says if we don't find a solution that it won't get done, so do something.   He believes that we should see where a kid is and help them with the core things that are wrong. For instance, he feels that bullying and teen pregnancy are really anger management and self love issues.  Kevin talks to kids about what he calls "The Game of Life" and compares the challenges faced by teens with the challenges of a video game.  He inspires teens to be eager and ready to take on the next level in life.

Coach Speaks: Do More

on Mon, 06/17/2013 - 2:32pm


Do more than exist. Live.

Do more than hear. Listen.

Do more than agree. Cooperate.

Do more than talk. Communicate.

Do more than grow. Bloom.

Do more than spend. Invest.

Do more than think. Create.

Do more than work. Excel.

Do more than share. Give.

Do more than decide. Discern.

Do more than consider. Commit.

Do more than forgive. Forget.

Do more than help. Serve.

Do more than coexist. Reconcile.

Do more than sing. Worship.

Do more than think. Plan.

Do more than dream. Do.

Do more than see. Perceive.

Do more than read. Apply.

Do more than receive. Reciprocate.

Do more than choose. Focus.



Coach Speaks

American Graduate Community Forum

On March 28, 2013, Public Broadcasting Atlanta (PBA) in collaboration with the American Graduate:  Let's Make it Happen initiative hosted a panel of experts and advocates to speak to parents and concerned citizens about the growing high school dropout crisis in Atlanta.  The panel provided essential information and community resources to help parents/guardians keep their children on track to graduation.  The event was held at D.M. Therrell High School in Atlanta.