School Choice Question

Read Chapter 3 of the text ( A Search for Common Ground: Conversations About the Toughest Questions in K-12 Education by Frederick M. Hess and Pedro A. Noguera)

Watch the documentary “Waiting for Superman”(2010) written and directed by David Guggenheim. It follows the educational journey of Geoffrey Canada and others.

Write a one page reflection answering:

What is your position on school choice? Are you for or against? Why?

Time is of the essence is the first thought that popped into my head while I clicked the x before the credits rolled at the end of the documentary, Waiting for Superman. Time is of the essence for me in my own education as well as in the essence for my students. Time is of the essence if success is what we want. 

Nonetheless, concerning how we succeed ( in terms of which school has the road map and which doesn’t)  isn’t vital, as long as we get there. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said to the Sanitation workers in Memphis, “It really doesn’t matter…because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land”. In this instance, education is one of the tools used to get us to the promise land. We want our children to be educated and able to think critically.

There seems to be no right and no wrong in public vs private vs religious vs independent vs charter vs homeschooling. What we want is success for our students and our communities and we are willing to try what promises to work. 

The trouble comes when virtues are mentioned. We will never succeed being dishonest. 

Michelle Rhee put it best when she said, learning ‘comes down to the adults and accountability’. We know if and when we are doing right by our children. 

I am for whatever choice works. The documentary mentioned that leading up to the 70’s the educational system worked for America. The system produced great men like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

However, the times changed. The material King and Tyson learned while in school is still relevant; however, the systems under how they were taught has changed. 

I wonder now if America is still waiting for Superman. How much have COIVD changed the face of education. Will there be a documentary showing the state of the Education post COVID?

Noguera, co-author of A Search for Common Ground reminded in his letters that each system put out something good. Even in flawed systems, there is always space for a ‘David and Goliath’ battle. The problem is that war happens constantly and the Battles are won far and few in between. 

Noguera stated “ America’s inability to create schools where poor children of color are learning has more to do with our nation’s history of segregation and unequal treatment than anything else”. 

It’s no wonder the nation was thriving in Education during segregation and 20 years after. Blacks were learning under oppression and White were the oppressors succeeding. It’s been over 60 years since Brown vs. Board and the fire is still boiling. The people haven’t learned to work together. Policy, law, Government,  officials are caught up in greed and comfort to even think about ways to fix the education system. Even though the laws came into place to end Jim Crow the spirit if separation is so great in America. The same evils that once allowed America to thrive are the same evils that are now killing America.

I wonder, are we going back into a complete segregated educational system? (We were never completely integrated) Organic personal school improvements, vouchers, charter schools, educational savings account and more are terms I’ve heard in conversations about the future of Education… when listening to policy makers, reading literature, and sitting in class. However, in the real world, around parents of the majority; parents are now in the same routines as before COVID.

You see, so already, we have started the conversation about school choice without the voice of the below the poverty line or lower class parent. So, where do we go from here?

Charlie Brown in the Third Grade

Ms. Hurley, why do you like Charlie Brown?

That’s what my third graders ask me every year.

God bless their hearts. They come into the third grade innocent. Taking everything at face value.

I never answer that question, because I never thought I liked Charlie Brown. I just think it’s a good tool to use to teach third graders about race in America.

Before school starts, I use my Amazon points to purchase classroom items such as posters, stickers, door décor, awards, window stickers and a new grade book -all decorated with Peanuts characters.

I found this Clean Desk Award on the website Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s a great way to teach the third grade organizational skills. I never have to worry about a messy desk. They never know when Ms. Hurley will give out the Clean Desk Award.

There is a huge welcome poster that hangs above the cozy classroom library. It’s the first poster the children see when they walk in. It says welcome in huge red letters, and features every Charlie Brown character-except Franklin.

There is a poster at the front of the room that states “In a good conversation, one person talks while the other listens,” and there you see Charlie Brown in a good conversation…

There is a Snoopy poster. It has a yellow backdrop and it reminds the children how to be a perfect friend. Lucy has a poster. Linus has a poster. There are posters with the whole gang- except Franklin. As a matter of fact, I can count on one hand how many posters Franklin is in…

So I ask the children to create a poster for Franklin.

As the year goes by the children mature. The calendar at the front of the room finally has a picture of Franklin…

Franklin’s image for the calendar appears on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Around this time they are introduced to my Charlie Brown library.

I built the library by searching on eBay and Etsy for Charlie Brown memorabilia. I came across a set of old Charlie Brown books. They are so old the children have to ask special permission to read them and they MUST handle the books with care.

The ones who love to read try to keep them. Before they leave for the summer, I have to search their desks to make sure each one is returned.

During the year, I watch them silently read. It warms my heart to see them understand the humor from the Peanuts characters. Once they start to laugh and enjoy the content, I begin to ask them questions about the images and where they see themselves.

I then pull out the Charlie Brown dictionary- which always amazes them. (It amazed me too!) I add it to our classroom set of dictionaries. As time passes and they learn to define words and use them, I allow them to search the Charlie Brown dictionary.

As the year continues, the class grows older. The students are not new to third grade. They are fully third graders now.

Then one day, someone asks a question about identity – this always happens…someone is always curious about his or her self– and the class begins to argue and no one can come to a consensus. They turn to me and I turn to the dictionaries that they learned to trust and ask them if they ever looked up the words black or white. What do they think it means in a dictionary such as this one? I pull down the Charlie Brown dictionary.

The classroom is usually silent. Everyone thinking.

Then I flip the pages to white.

And read: White is the color of snow. Ducks have white feathers. The sheets on my bed are white. Marshmallows are white.

Next I turn the pages to black and read,

Franklin is Charlie Brown’s little black friend. He is talking to Charlie Brown on the telephone. Black is a color. Black is also another word for Negro, a person with dark skin. The words in this book are black.

The next thing that usually happens is a series of questions. Questions about what is in books and what images we accept without questions.

One year, the conversation happened after a trip to the New York Historical Society. The children were stunned to see a white educator – rather than a black one- teaching them about slavery in New York. They stood, uncertain, and couldn’t answer her questions. When we returned to the classroom, they expressed their discomfort with having a white educator telling them about their history.

Why did you feel uncomfortable? I asked.

Because, what was her ancestors doing when my ancestors were slaves? one little boy said quietly.

What do you think they were doing and why didn’t you ask her that?

A bossy girl at the front of the room replied, Because, that’s rude Ms. Hurley!

Why is that rude? Weren’t you uncomfortable? Was it okay for her to make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin? I’m not telling you to be rude. I am telling you to think. Think about your history and your stories and who is telling them and who will tell them if you don’t learn who you are.

Another year the conversation happened after singing the Black National Anthem. That was two years ago, when Trevor Noah and Roy Wood Jr. celebrated Franklin’s 50th year on the Daily Show. That was the same year the children learned the word stereotype.

Last year COVID happened right when the children started having the conversations. I thought, How can I introduce ‘race in America’ without the setting of the classroom? America quickly answered that question for me. Instead of discussing Franklin and Charlie Brown we cried about Floyd and Michael Brown, Jr.

Lift Every Voice and Sing- A Virtual Assembly



As tradition has it, every first Monday of each month, my school would gather for assembly. We will lift our voices and sing the anthem.

This Monday we were muted. We listed to a muffled Dr. Roland Carter version.

We listened to our Principal tell us the virtue of the month, Resilience. Resilience.

And, just like that, Assembly was over.

When the question was asked, anyone have anything to say, the students unmuted their microphones and said hi. Cries of children saying hi as if they wouldn’t have an opportunity to be heard. Calling teacher names and saying they missed them.

This was the first assembly I cried. The first assembly I didn’t have to speak to any children nor lead them in a rendition of the Black National Anthem.

Another voice came. Assembly is over, please hang up.

No one moved. Everyone stayed. No one spoke. just stayed in the call. Until the call was dropped.