Terrance Hamilton wants teachers to shake up kids who aren’t paying attention or doing their work in class.
And he thinks some students – especially those of poverty or color – need not just a second chance but “chance after chance after chance” to succeed in school and, ultimately, in life.
Hamilton, an 18-year-old who’s working on his high school diploma at Tacoma Community College, crystallizes the mission of community members working to close the achievement gap.
He riveted a group of educators and civic leaders Saturday during the closing session of Achievement Gap Summit II, a daylong series of forums and conversations at the University of Puget Sound.
The event, sponsored by the Race & Pedagogy Initiative, drew about 300 participants, said Grace Livingston, an assistant professor of African American studies.
The initiative brings educators and community members together “to think critically about race and to act to eliminate racism,” according to the group’s Web site.
One element of that is developing ways to close the achievement gap between white students and their counterparts of poverty and color, particularly black males, a group that historically struggles in school.
So can 300 people meeting and talking make a difference in a historical problem?
Livingston thinks so.
“Talking is action,” she said. “Building the conversation” about race issues in education and then sending people out in to the community to initiate change is much needed, she added.
Tom Hilyard sees meetings like the Achievement Gap Summit not as stand-alone events but as moments in a larger movement that’s growing in the area.
“It’s not a day,” he said of the summit. “It’s an organized, concerted effort to align change inside the community and inside the state. … We’ve changed the awareness of this community” and people are working to “drill down into the root causes” of the achievement gap, said Hilyard, who’s chairman of the education committee for the Tacoma Pierce County Black Collective.
A conference for parents is planned for spring.
But no matter who is doing the talking or the listening, the aim of the initiative is squarely on success for all students.
Hamilton, who is black, urged turnabouts in the classroom.
He unflinchingly criticized some teachers at Mount Tahoma High School, which he attended.
“It seems like there’s a lot of teachers who give up when students slip up,” he said.
If a teacher doesn’t care about helping, “kids think, ‘Why should I be here?’ ” he said.
UPS professor Dexter Gordon hopes people will look at students like Hamilton and see their promise.
“This is a young man we can applaud into success” or “beat down” into failure, he said.
The audience in the Schneebeck Concert Hall erupted into sustained clapping.
Kris Sherman: 253-597-8650
• For more information, go to www.ups.edu/raceandpedagogy.xml