Everything is Connected

I learned this from being a Minneapolis Public Schools teacher

My students and me.

My students and me.

Would you perform well at your job if you were hungry or sleep deprived? What about if you were facing an eviction because you couldn’t pay your rent or had spent the night in a car?  If you think it would be hard to do your job under these circumstances, just imagine how much harder it is for a child in school.

When I was 12 years old, my mother passed away. It became clear very quickly that she was the one who kept our household running. Our family descended into chaos. My grades suffered – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A few years later when I became a school teacher, I saw this same pattern with my students. Kids who had security in their households where adults had stable jobs and healthy relationships, came to school rested, fed, aspirational and ready to learn. Children from families in chaos due to poverty or other situations had too much else going on in their lives to be make school a priority focus.  As a teacher, I found myself having to do social work…a field for which I was not completely qualified.

I learned from my years of teaching that if we want our schools to perform well, we need to do better as a city. We must be sure that we’re doing everything we can to create a shared prosperity through an inclusive economy -- good jobs that reach everyone.   When the people of our city have stable jobs, kids can focus on learning and our teachers can focus on teaching.  Ignoring the interconnected factors that stand in the way of our kids doing well in school and then blaming teachers when these same kids don’t progress as we would like does not work and we cannot keep doing it.

When families have financial stability…adults have good paying jobs, housing they can afford, affordable medical care, reliable transportation and access to healthy food, their children -- our students -- will do better in school. When we have stable households, we can have more stable neighborhoods and schools.   

And when we have top notch schools, we’ll have a great city that is working for all of us.  It will take a lot of hard work to achieve this but we know what works.  We all have to make this work a priority; we can achieve great things for our kids and our future.

Tom Hoch