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Reflecting on the brighter side

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by Katrina Morrison

This summer I am interning with the Notebook through the Samuel S. Fels Fund graduate internship program. I am researching school turnaround for the October edition of the Notebook and will be blogging periodically.

I grew up in Sharon Hill, PA, and currently reside in West Philadelphia. I taught 9-11th grade humanities for three years at Mastery Charter High School, Lenfest Campus. I am currently a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Two brief encounters recently led me to reflect on something that has been lost in the recent noise about catastrophe in the District’s leadership and budget: the good things happening in Philly schools.

First, a veteran middle school teacher urged me to seek out those good things. Not long afterward, I was reading at the 69th Street bus stop when a voice called my name.

When I looked up, I saw a 19-year-old man with the face of a 14-year-old I once taught. It indeed was Nadir, my former student as a freshman at Mastery Lenfest.

After we calmed from the astonishment of seeing each other, he told me that he had just finished his first year at Ursinus College. It was tough, he said, but also fun. He looked forward to his second year and to choosing a major. When the school year ended, he came back home to live with his mother. He’s looking for a summer job, but also for a book to read. I recommended a range of authors from Toni Morrison to Stephenie Meyer. I was pleased to hear that he had enjoyed reading Morrison, along with Ellison, Baldwin, and others, in his African-American literature class.

I was so happy to hear how well he had been doing, and smiled at the thought that as his 9th grade humanities teacher, I might have had something to do with his success.

I am no longer a high school teacher, but I am still involved in the movement to improve education experiences for young people. And like the veteran middle school teacher, I care about sharing positive stories to remind us that what we do–as students, parents, instructors, administrators, academics, advocates, and community members–makes a difference.

So, I’d like to remind you of a few things that you may have forgotten already during the tumultuous month of June. Thousands of seniors across the District celebrated graduations:

To all graduates, congratulations and good luck!

Also, in a city that in the past, has been criticized for high rates of obesity, it is nice to see two schools receive recognition for their health initiatives.

Of course, there are other stories that never make it into the media. An example would be the thousands of teachers who built strong, caring, supportive relationships with their students and help change their lives for the better.

I would love it if you would share some of your uplifting narratives here.

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