I have been blessed to grow up in an environment where education is a top priority. My teachers, my friends, and my family all encourage me to be the best student I can be. School has always come pretty easy for me, so I never could truly grasp how others were struggling. For almost 14 years I believed every town/school was like mine. It wasn’t until I stepped into the reality of the world that I realized
1. How lucky I am
2. The American education system is not where it needs to be.
Since 8th grade, I have tutored inner-city 2nd grade students in English. While I come from a background where you are expected to read by kindergarten, many of these students could not read well even in 2nd grade. My tutoring experience was my first shock. Why had their teachers not taught them to read? Why do their parents not help them? As I finished my 4th year of tutoring these kids, the questions still lingered in my head. Are these kids teachers just not that good at their job? I couldn’t figure out what was the reason my school was so different than the schools 10 minutes away.
It wasn’t until I went to Sawyerville Day Camp this last week that I finally was able to grasp the concept. Sawyerville Day Camp is a weeklong day camp for kids in Hale County, one of the poorest counties in Alabama. I volunteered to be a counselor and lead fun games and lessons for kids who had no activities to do in the summer. During counselor training, we played a 10-minute game that finally opened my mind to the real world. The game went like this: There are 3 groups, and each group is given a sheet of paper with words on it. You are supposed to use these words to guess the object the words are describing.
As the game went on, Team 1 kept getting the answer right every single time, while Team 2 and Team 3 sometimes got the right answer, but struggled a lot. Being on Team 2, I kept wondering if Team 1 was cheating or was I just really stupid and couldn’t think of the answer. Team 3 was struggling even more than my team and even thought we had an advantage. As the game ended, our instructor made us all look at our papers. Team 1’s paper had the words “used to heat things up, rectangular box, found in a kitchen”. Team 2’s paper said “rectangular electronic box, everyday item”, and Team 3’s paper said “rectangular electronic”. The item was a microwave. As you can see, team 1 had way more descriptive clues than team 2 and 3. Team 2 also had an advantage over Team 3. Our instructor told us Team 1 represented good education, Team 2 was average education, and Team 3 was poor education. Team 1 kept getting the answers right because they were given more clues, just like I am given more support in my education. Team 2 was very frustrated because the answer seemed so close, yet Team 1 always beat them to it. People with an average education feel like they have to get lucky or work extra hard to reach the level of the people with the good education. Then, the people on Team 3, or with poor education, believe there is no chance for them. They have to work extra hard to even reach the level of people with average education. This game finally put into perspective to me why so many kids are under-performing in America.
Everyone has SO much potential, yet don’t have the resources to reach it. If you are reading this, I encourage you to be a resource to someone. Go out and volunteer with local charity organizations or even donate books to a school. If you encourage a kid to believe in themselves, we can break the gaps between education. Education should not be a luxury but rather a right.