Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Joanne Jacobs article: “Odd Ducks”

By on April 19, 2008

I just read Joanne Jacobs article, “Odd Ducks” that very wisely asked the question: “Is there less room for odd ducks in today’s schools?”  I believe that in the world of standardized testing, there cannot be recognition for true quirkiness, because “standardized,” by definition, recognizes the middle of the road as the higher ground.  

I commented:

To answer your question: it, unfortunately, depends.  It depends on the administrator: is he or she the type of person that would give a student Saturday School for having a swash of color in their hair?  It depends on the teacher: is he or she the type of person that remembers what it was like to spend your school days wrestling with your identity, even going so far as to put that swash of color in your hair to try out a new costume for the day? 
Case in point: I am a middle school teacher who finds that many of these “odd ducks” are quite successful in her classroom.  In fact, in meetings with other teachers, I have heard them exclaim about a particular shared student, “What a pain” or, “That kid does nothing.”  But as Matthew Needleman says, “They’re not bored, you’re boring.”  Anyway, every year the recommendations for 8th grade honors comes around and every year I look over my 7th grade brood and get excited at how many are academically eligible to apply.  And then I look at the bulleted list of requirements and sigh.  #3 on the list?  “Amiable Personality.”  
I argue every year.  What the heck does that mean?  Who gets to judge what is unamiable and what is creative academic protest in the presence of an intolerent teacher?  
And how ’bout this little tid-bit: in a Title I school of 49% Asian and 49% Latino, our honors classes are only made up of Asian and Caucasian (a group that makes up less than 1% of our district population).  
Now, I’m not saying that our current honors teacher makes certain groups purposefully ineligible.  I am saying that the teachers who recommend these students do so based on criteria that does not encourage diversity.
I have recently been approached to teach 8th grade honors next year.  (Cue the villainous wringing of my hands and the obligatory neh-he-heh).  I hope that the “odd ducks” (who make up, by my estimate, at least 10% of our school’s population) get proper representation.  And that bulleted line that says, “amiable personality?”  That will be replaced by “critical, creative thinker.”   

…who may or may not have a swash of color in their hair.

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