Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More on Mentoring in DISD

Editorial writer William McKenzie  wrote on May 9th:

"As part of the mayor’s education push, why not create an I Tutor Dallas campaign? The city has initiatives built around biking, parks and the arts. Why not complement them with a new effort that mobilizes various parts of the city in helping schools intervene with struggling students?
I am not talking about random work or feel-good assignments. Rather, I am talking about a strategic campaign that draws upon some of the city’s best educational resources and experienced talent.
For example, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development has experts who could perhaps advise schools, parents and volunteers in the most appropriate ways to help kids who are behind in, say, math. Simmons already is involved with DISD in trying to improve West Dallas schools, so they already have a relationship with the district."


I wrote to Gilbert Leal (gilbert@texasmedia3.com)  after seeing his editorial in the Monday DMN, calling for more involvement of the business community with DISD students. 

Massive programs may work, but what we are looking for here is a more modest effort, first just to find out if a "proximate mentor" is really any better than a standard approach, and whether we can find and employ them in a useful manner. We also are concerned that all this avoids a "boxcar syndrome" where teachers view it as another add-on to the already overburdened school day and curriculum. 

We also need to look at the power of explanatory style on school and career. If Martin Seligman ( Learned Optimism, 1990) is right, we can identify children more likely to profit from special attention (those try- and try-again optimists), and even more powerfully, perhaps we can teach kids optimism to the extent that it changes their school performance. 

Last week, we met Marilen Mendez, a working young architect of Puerto Rican background, who expressed interest in what we are thinking about at Trini Garza. She referred us on to Clemente Jacquez, a colleague in the Dallas AIA who heads up a Latino group there. 

I called Vince Reyes, Director of Instruction at DISD and asked for a meeting. I'll get his take on our idea and see what else may be in play within the district.

The next step is to meet with the TGECHS faculty next week, and present the idea to them. One obvious question: to what extent are they already tapping to to the resource right there at their feet-- the collegians of the Mountain View Campus? If yes, how is it working, if no, why not? Another important issue to look into is how the teachers see their kids now, and explore what they need in terms of problem-solving and self-management strategies. The "presenting problem" from the Principal, Dr. Lombardi, was, of course, not for mentoring, but more specific training in project management. We have to start from that point, it seems to me. 

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