There is an old phrase that says “Showing up is half the battle.”
In the education world, especially in urban communities, I often hear this phrase when referring to my students, some of whom are sporadic in their attendance and who are in and out of school due to various circumstances.
Many educators believe that if the child “at least” comes to school, then we have at least won “half the battle.”
While I believe that attending school is important, I do not believe that it is a prerequisite. It is not a pre-requisite, but a requisite!
Too many of our young people and adults are under the impression that if a child comes to school, this is sufficient. What the child does at school then becomes less of a priority than the child’s presence itself.
In fact, what the child does at school is more important, more ESSENTIAL, and even more NECESSARY. Our expectations must be higher for our children, especially in communities of color where the expectation is already set so low.
In 2010, Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg constructed an interagency task force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement. And in June 2013, the Youth Justice Board, consisting of a group of diverse teenagers from across the city, spent four months studying these issues and published their findings and recommendations in a report entitled “From Absent to Present”.
In their report, the students identified both “pull” and “push” factors that contribute to absenteeism. It is the “push” factors that I am referring to when I discuss expectations of schools to support, nurture and expect academic progress and high achievement.
When a student comes to school, it is our obligation– both as parents and educators– to support, nurture and provide the scaffolds for success. Too often, in communities of color, we believe that a child’s presence in school is enough.
We need to have the same expectations for that child as we do for any other child, for any other child in any other community, black or white. We must stop using the phrase “Well, at least they came to school…”
Of course chronic absenteeism is an issue in many urban communities, and we must address it. But too often, we stop educating once we get the student into the door.
We have to continue to educate, to nurture and to provide students with the exceptional education they deserve, because in each and every student lies power, resilience, grace and greatness.