- Posted August 27, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Fix our schools
Inspiring Urban Youth: Teaching Math in Southie
My name is Adam Gray and I am a high school math teacher at Monument High School, a Title 1 public school in Boston. After finishing my second year of teaching in spring 2008, I had an epiphany. I had taught for two years and watched many capable students fail to arrive at school on time, fail to do homework, fail to do well on tests, and fail to care. In 2008, Monument’s attendance rate was 82%, it’s out-of-school suspension rates was 35%, and the graduation rate was 44%. These deplorable numbers tell a story that some readers of this article might predict is one of students that aren’t capable or of one where students are burdened with unqualified teachers. While I won’t deny that there may in fact be microscopic truths to both predictions, lack of motivation and or inspiration is the real story here. Students that perform well on state administered tests were flunking all of their classes. How can this be?
In each class that I’ve taught at Monument during the last three years, most of my students have had the ability to succeed, but only a minute percent choose too. And unfortunately in urban schools, we all too often focus on students that are not putting out than those that trying to maximize their potential. In the two years I had been at Monument, we had not once formally recognized students that were achieving at high levels at all times. This, I realized, had to change.
So, in summer 2008, I founded Boston Public School’s first Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor society, an organization dedicated to inspiring keen interest in mathematics, and developing strong scholarship in the subject. We added to our chapters mission statement the following: to provide unique opportunities to students that will motivate them to continue their education and pursue a college degree.
It is this last part the makes our club so unique. Joelle Bush, our student development coordinator, and I sat for countless hours in many coffee shops during the summer of 2008 writing a fundraising proposal in the hopes of raising $8,000 to take the only 11 students out of 200 (the junior and senior class) that had a 3.0 G.P.A. or higher on a field trip to Washington, D.C., in Spring 2009. It was no doubt a very lofty goal. But we believed in ourselves, our members, and our mission. Joelle and I called businesses throughout the Boston area in search of support. Discouraged after countless rejections, one phone call to Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, Inc set the tone for the rest of my year. Caroline Baker, a representative at the company asked me to email her and her boss the 14 page proposal we had put together. A day later, she called me back and asked me where could she send their $1,000 donation!
With our renewed sprit, we continued our calls. Rejections didn’t phase us any more because Rasky added legitimacy to our cause. Several weeks later, the Boston Bruins Foundation donated $2,000, and Massport donated $1,000. We were only $4,000 away from our goal! That’s when I got the call. Marin Knight, and member of the Old Mutual Asset Management Foundation, had read our proposal and liked it so much that her team wanted to not only sponsor our entire trip, but also donate and additional $2,000 for Mu Alpha Theta’s weekly meeting expenditures.
Joelle and I had the philosophy that by rewarding hardworking and high achieving students with something as awesome as a fully funded field trip to our nation’s capital, we would not only be recognizing them for their hard work, but we would also be showing other students what they can experience if they choose to work hard and succeed like their peers in Mu Alpha Theta. In total, Joelle and I had raised $14,000. On Thursday, March 26, 2009, M.A.T., Joelle, and I boarded Delta flight 6645 and went to Washington, D.C., for five days! The buzz and excitement around the school on the Tuesday following our return was incredible. Everybody wanted to know how they could be in M.A.T. For this upcoming school year, we have 17 members, 6 more than last year.
For video footage of our trip to D.C., check out the link below.