A letter to the editor in today’s Toronto Star struck a chord with me—as an educator, as a parent, and as a member of a diverse society. It may seem like a truism, but I’m convinced that the further away from the day-to-day of schools that we get, the easier it is to lose sight of just how important relationships are in this place we call school.
The very thing that letter writer Deanna Churcher points to as making the difference for her are the very things that we seem to want to sideline, undermine or, at the very least, gloss over, when it comes to talking about school quality.
I hope that I’m not breaking any copyright laws by sharing the letter in its entirety:
I grew up at Black Creek and Trethewey. I ran with a tough crowd. I have been in more stolen vehicles than I can count. I hid a gun in my locker in high school for a friend. I was popular — everyone knew who I was. I had parents who seemed to not care what I was doing or where I was. I was playing basketball outside three blocks away on the night police officer Todd Bayliss was shot.
So how did I get out? How am I not in jail? How did I go to university, graduate, get a job, get married, move to Milton and have two kids? Why didn’t I get pregnant in junior high like three of my classmates?
I’m not sure I have the definitive answers. I got involved in sports teams and music. I had teachers who cared if I showed up. One teacher asked me what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t have an answer. When he asked me about my university applications, I laughed. We didn’t have any money, my parents were uneducated and not concerned with school. My situation was not uncommon. After that conversation I was approached by many of my teachers with offers to help with applications, loans and scholarships and a higher paying summer job. Something clicked from there. I was important to people, they didn’t want me to fail.
Community and school programs work — maybe not for everyone but they work. We need to show kids that there is hope, that people care what we become, that we can have pride in ourselves and our achievements. Pointing out “immigrants” and trying to deport gang members doesn’t work. They come back.
What is the solution? Start young, give kids options, and put money into keeping them off the streets and out of gangs.
It’s not a short-term solution, it’s a long-term one. There is no quick fix, this takes time and investment. Aren’t the kids worth it?
Deanna Churcher, Milton, ON